Backed by the far-right, the city council wants to scrap the traffic reduction scheme known as "Madrid Central"by Tommy Greene / December 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
When Spain stepped in at the last moment to become the host for this year’s annual UN climate summit (COP25), after it became clear that upheaval in Chile would prevent the two-week-long conference from being held in Santiago, many Spanish climate change activists hoped it would be a galvanising moment for the national environmental movement.
Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s centre-left Socialist Party had won plaudits for the ambitious green energy plans it presented at last year’s summit. And both his party and potential coalition partners, Unidas Podemos, had pledged a “Green New Deal” for Spain in their manifestos for this year’s repeat general elections.
Yet a dispute in Madrid over the capital’s most high-profile climate measure highlighted the ongoing battle those activists face. The new right-wing administration in the city, led by the Popular Party’s (PP) José Luis Almedia, and backed by insurgent far-right force, Vox, promised repeatedly on the campaign trail this May to dismantle the traffic reduction scheme known as “Madrid Central” that was the flagship policy of the previous leftist administration, led by retired judge Manuela Carmena.
Madrid Central had arguably been Carmena’s biggest achievement in office. Facing immense pressure throughout her term, with the city’s economic elites breathing down the neck of her government from day one, Carmena chose to direct much of her administration’s resources towards securing advances in less obviously politicised areas. The environment and transport in Madrid’s city centre therefore became key elements of the mayor’s vision for the capital.
Not all of Carmena’s forward-thinking plans—which included a complete ban on cars from the city centre as well as installing gardens on top of buses and bus shelters—could be realised during her four years in office. Some were clearly hampered by PP administrations that worked against Carmena’s public transport initiatives at the regional level at the same time as it imposed enormous cuts on her group from national government.
But, at the end of 2016, the test phase of a pedestrianisation scheme along Madrid’s main arterial thoroughfare, Gran Vía, was implemented and eventually expanded across one of the capital’s busiest roads. The Madrid Central initiative, which constituted a series of…