By Corinne Murdock |
The 15-minute cities that have received the backing of the mayors of multiple cities eventually result in consequences like zoning permits that limit free movement. These proposals have stirred up controversy.
Such was the case earlier this year in Oxford, England, when the city council announced the division of the city into six districts and the implementation of zoning permits for those traveling by car. Effectively, citizens will be required to obtain permits in order to drive the roads exiting their zone; if they don’t, they will be fined. Those who walk, bike, or take buses or taxis, however, won’t be subjected to fines.
The plan incited global controversy after Oxford residents posted criticisms about the severe limitations that these zoning permits imposed. Fact-checkers and mainstream media outlets debunked the concerns as conspiracy theories.
15-minute cities intend to create communities in which citizens may access everything necessary for living within a 15-minute walking or biking distance. The concept came from controversial University of Paris professor Carlos Moreno. A major premise behind the 15-minute city concept is the belief that it will mitigate and even reverse climate change.
Essentially, 15-minute cities greatly disincentivize or outright ban travel by car, thereby limiting citizens’ movements.
Leadership from several of Arizona’s major cities and towns have backed the 15-minute city concept: Phoenix and Tucson.
The push for 15-minute cities gained momentum following emergency declarations over the COVID-19 outbreak. In July 2020, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) published a plan to implement 15-minute cities via the societal upheaval from the pandemic, using the same slogan as the one used for President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign: “Build Back Better.” Nearly 100 mayors with C40 membership signed onto the idea.
C40 also announced that the pandemic was an opportune time for leaders to reset their political and economic priorities. In that call to action, C40 said it would attempt to recruit over 1,000 cities to sign a Global Green New Deal.
“The pandemic has made it clear that existing economic and political systems often fail to protect our communities and our ecosystems, especially the most vulnerable,” stated C40. “However, when we prioritize people and communities over profit, we can build economies and cities that work for everyone and don’t bring harm to the living world around us.”
C40 consists of mayors from over 100 cities globally committed to combating climate change by cutting emissions by 50 percent in its member cities. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego has served on the C40’s steering committee since 2021; she is the only American on the 13-member committee.
C40’s emissions reduction plans align with the Paris Accords agreement, which demands carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050. C40 required member cities to create their own plan in 2016. Plans to reduce emissions must prioritize progressive social justice elements, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion.
C40 launched in 2005 under London, England’s then-Mayor Ken Livingstone, originally called “C20.” In 2006, former President Bill Clinton merged his Climate Initiative with C20 to form what is now known as C40. Clinton’s Clinton Foundation remains one of the organization’s key partners.
In 2007, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined C40 as well as hosted its second annual conference. Bloomberg remains one of C40’s highest funders; the organization has earned annual revenues well over $32 million the last few years.
Other major funders to C40 include George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Oak Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, Google, the Wellcome Fund, and the European Climate Foundation.
In April, the Biden administration gave a first-ever investment of $1 million to a C40-led initiative to address “climate migration” in Latin American cities. That same week, Biden signed an executive order to prioritize environmental justice into federal agencies; a C40 representative was there for the signing.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo campaigned off the 15-minute city concept and implemented it during the pandemic in 2020. Under Hidalgo, the city has purged cars from most major areas, causing traffic to worsen and, essentially, disincentivizing car travel. Rush hour along the Seine river now crawls after the city closed a major roadway which had previously ensured car travel at a steady pace. The closed roadway, as Bloomberg observed, is now mostly an empty space with sparse pedestrian and cyclist use. Cars also have reduced access on major streets and the beltway.
Concurrent with the 15-minute city push is Vision Zero: an attempt to eliminate all traffic fatalities by restructuring roads to diminish car usage. Vision Zero is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives, a grantmaking institution whose funding comes from a variety of left-leaning nonprofits such as the Grove Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the NoVo Foundation. Phoenix established a Vision Zero plan last year, which will cost $10 million indefinitely.
Initiatives resembling Vision Zero efforts include “road diets,” which reduce the number of drivable lanes by converting car lanes into 15-minute city-friendly features such as bike lanes or pedestrian refuge islands. Scottsdale recently approved a road diet for one of their major roadways.