Madrid’s dark and dubious campaign to be the second most sustainable city in the world | Madrid


View of the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid, with the Torres Kio (Plaza de Castilla) and the Cuatro Torres in the background, in an image taken on January 27, 2021.
View of the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid, with the Torres Kio (Plaza de Castilla) and the Cuatro Torres in the background, in an image taken on January 27, 2021.OSCAR CARRASCOSA (Getty Images/Westend61)

For a couple of weeks, on various portals, national digital media and social networks and even on the Metro, dozens of announcements from the City Council of the capital of Spain have appeared with the slogan “Show off Madrid.” Most are banners: small and large boxes of digital propaganda that are placed in the margins and inside the news, combining images with text. In this case, the municipal advertising campaign is accompanied by the following message: “Madrid, the second most sustainable city in the world”. To show off the award even more, the City Council has added a giant green number two, that of sustainability, along with a moving drawing of a father and a girl riding a bicycle. The campaign, which according to City Council sources includes “other prizes”, has cost the municipal coffers 100,000 euros and will last 30 days. Is Madrid the second most sustainable city in the world? According to the study that accompanies the advertisement, yes. The reality, however, is another story.

This particular study is signed by the British website USwitch. Founded in 2000, it employs nearly 200 employees at its London headquarters. USwitchAs defined on its website, it is a comparator of telephone, gas and electricity services. Their goal is simple: “We can help you save money on gas and electricity, heat coverage, phones, insurance, and personal finance products. We want to help you take advantage of the best prices and services offered by suppliers. ” Where, then, does this study that promotes Madrid with great fanfare and that has awarded the capital the silver medal in world sustainability come from?

From an article published on the website itself last May with data collected from two other portals (Nomad Data and Numbeo). The methodology for Canberra (Australia) to be the most sustainable city in the world, Madrid the second and Brisbane (Australia) the third is the following: a series of factors have been considered, such as the crime rate, traffic levels, the time of travel, carbon dioxide emission, use of renewable energy and percentage of green areas available. The portal has awarded the capital of Spain 403 points out of 600 in this classification, only 24 from Canberra (427). These data and these factors, far from being based on official sites, have been compiled from these two Anglo-Saxon portals. Numbeo is a gigantic global database of cities around the world fed by the users themselves. Nomad is an American website that collects and manages data for companies.

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Campaign of the City Council in the newspaper '20 minutes'.
Campaign of the City Council in the newspaper ’20 minutes’.

It is striking that the Madrid City Council uses a ranking of a British website with a study based on two portals of these characteristics. Why this listing? “The campaign”, say sources from the City Council, “aims to generate pride of belonging in Madrid and is one of many that have been carried out”. Sources from the Economics area explain that they have used this classification “because it is the most recent and because of its methodology.”

By clicking on the campaign banner, the user is automatically redirected to a corner of the City Council’s website under the heading “Madrid Brand”. The epigraph reads as follows: “The Marca Madrid project needs your collaboration and that of everyone, if you are from Madrid or feel part of Madrid and wish to contribute to making Madrid recognized as one of the cities in the world where people live best, join us to our project Madrid awaits you! ”. The user must leave his name, his message and an email here, without further details of what will happen next with that data. City Council sources assure that the data goes to the Economy area and “serves to listen to the citizen.”

The most curious thing is that, in this section of the City Council, there is a link to a PDF document entitled “Madrid in the rankings”. Here, however, there is no trace of the prize awarded by the web USwitch. They do add another 2018 sustainable cities award, prepared by the Arcadis consultancy. Madrid is considered in this index the 21st most sustainable city in the world out of 100, (down one position compared to the previous study), in a classification led by London, Stockholm, Edinburgh, Singapore and Vienna.

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Coincidence or not, the launch of the Madrid campaign as the “second most sustainable city in the world” has coincided with the celebration of the COP26 climate summit, in which it hardly participates. The city has been invited by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to participate in two panels in the blue zone of COP 26, one on “Innovation hubs in cities” and the other on “Climate-friendly housing. neutral ”. The mayor of Madrid has not come. Yes, the mayor of Ciudadanos Santiago Saura has done it through videoconference. Saura is in charge of the city’s Internalization and Cooperation area.

Town Council website.
Town Council website.

The opposition sees in this campaign a ranking fake. “When you let 50,000 more cars enter the center”, observes the spokesperson and municipal leader of Más Madrid, Rita Maestre, “you have all the entrances to Madrid jammed with vehicles, you destroy bike lanes, you sink BiciMAD and I take away space from pedestrians, you have to do trap. What we would like is that Almeida, instead of allocating money to false campaigns, would allocate it to improve public transport, expand parks, build a network of safe bike lanes, pedestrianize streets in all neighborhoods of Madrid … but no: the money from Madrid taxes are dedicated to promoting false rankings with the city full of traffic jams and pollution ”.

The latest official data on pollution in Madrid are devastating. The capital and its metropolitan area are the urban area in Europe with the highest mortality burden attributable to air pollution by nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the main source of which comes from road traffic, especially diesel vehicles. This is reflected in a study carried out by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), supported by the “la Caixa” Foundation, and published this Thursday, which updates an investigation originally published last January in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

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Added to this is the mayor’s manifest criticism of Madrid Central, the capital’s low-emission zone that cannot be accessed by the most polluting vehicles. Almeida promised his withdrawal during the 2019 election campaign. His new municipal ordinance, approved last September, further expands the entry of polluting cars, allowing the entry of vehicles that previously did not enter: the cars of local merchants center. In addition, since the beginning of the new course, traffic jams have once again dominated the social life of Madrid. Almeida himself apologized for this and offered a solution: place cranes in “nerve centers” to be prepared for possible accidents on the access roads to the capital.

If we talk about the commitment to bikes, the capital of Spain has never championed a serious commitment to this sustainable means of transport. Contrary to what happens in the rest of European capitals or large Spanish cities, the city hardly has any bicycle lanes. One kilometer for every 100 of public roads; 15 times less than Bilbao, Seville or Barcelona. Madrid is committed to cycle lanes. Here the cyclist shares the avenues with the cars. That is, the vehicles should circulate at most at 30 kilometers per hour if they have a bike in front of them. Almost no one complies with it. A danger that cyclists have always denounced. This is in addition to the unfortunate state of BiciMad, the focus of hundreds of daily criticisms by users on social networks. A report from The country signed by journalist Antonio Nieto last August, it emphasized that one in three public bicycles are broken. The campaign for Madrid as the “second most sustainable city” in the world, meanwhile, is still in force.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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