UK city defends new ‘climate lockdown’ policy
The city of Oxford has embraced the concept of limiting citizens’ personal travel to fight climate change, an idea once dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
The Oxfordshire County Council’s so-called ‘traffic filter’ system, adopted last week, has gone viral, denounced as the first step toward “climate lockdowns” by climate skeptics and civil liberties activists.
The city will be divided into six “15-minute neighborhoods,” containing all local necessities, with residents required to register their cars so their comings and goings can be tracked by a network of cameras. They are allowed unlimited movement in their own neighborhood, but in order to drive through the filters, they must apply for a permit.
Even then, they are only granted access to other neighborhoods for an average of two days per week. Those who exceed their travel allotment will be fined.
Thousands of residents have expressed concern about the project, which has previously been rejected under a different name - including 1,800 who signed a single petition over worries it would actually increase congestion. However campaign director for Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, Zuhura Plummer, claimed that the initiative would “save lives and make our city more pleasant now and for future generations,” citing an “official analysis” that projected 35% less traffic, 9% fewer road casualties, 15% faster bus times, and 91% less air pollution.
The city will also benefit financially, with any driver caught passing through a filter without an exemption or a permit being charged a £70 penalty (just over $85) per violation. Planners expect the city could make as much as £1.1 million per year from fines.
Climate skeptics have attempted to raise the alarm about the measure since its passage, describing it as the first step toward the kind of “climate lockdowns” media outlets like The Guardian warned about at the height of the pandemic.
Economics professor Mariana Mazzucato outlined a grim future in which people would be required to submit to “climate lockdowns” for part of the year, barred from using personal vehicles and consuming red meat, while fossil fuel companies would be prohibited from drilling - all in the name of warding off catastrophic global warming.
When the essay was met with widespread public backlash, mentions of the phrase ‘climate lockdown’ were promptly scrubbed from news headlines, and the very notion of a government-mandated climate lockdown was declared a conspiracy theory.