Socialist and daughter of Spanish Republicans, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, touches the end of her five-year term with no intention of yielding in her battle against the most polluting cars, convinced that her entry into the city should be limited.
Hidalgo (San Fernando, Cádiz, 1959) has just said goodbye in addition to three years in the presidency of the group of cities against climate change C40, where local politicians have assumed the responsibility of showing that the transition to a greener economy is possible.
In Copenhagen, where the leadership of that network has passed to his Los Angeles counterpart, Eric Garcetti, defends a management that as he has gained space for pedestrians in Paris has earned him increasing resistance from the more conservative sectors.
QUESTION: In its five years of mandate there have been attacks or fire in April of the Notre Dame Cathedral, but its environmental policy has been the most questioned. What do you think is the origin of that virulence?
ANSWER: There have been criticisms by very conservative media and venues, for 'lobbies', but not for the population. Parisians, especially young people, those who live in the city, have always supported it. They had voted it and we have done it.
Q: There is talk of the car lobby, but also the habitual user of the car seems to be angry. What to do to convince people that you can no longer live as before?
A: I think he already knows. In Paris, where there are 2,500 deaths every year because of pollution and many diseases due to air pollution, when the population chose me in 2014 it was because I wanted this to end.
Politicians, at the local or national level, have to have a very strong determination to be able to realize their programs. As seen in this movement of young people who do not go to school on Fridays, when the majority is given the word, to the citizens, they speak and do not say the same as the more conservative forces.
The main cause of air pollution in cities like Paris comes from cars and diesel. If we want to act we have to limit its entrance, completely reform the streets, give more possibilities to pedestrians, to people who use the bikes, and that is what we have done.
Q: To what extent do you think that many of the criticisms have been conditioned by being women in the political front line?
Surely part of the conservatives, when they see a woman carrying these fights, they try to take credibility from her word and performance, but we have left all that behind, today what I see is that we have changed the city quite a lot.
We have also made other fundamental changes, such as the use of energy so that not much greenhouse gas is produced.
Q: The Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 are an opportunity to show the best practices that the city wants to apply. Are you going to come back to the position to finish that pending work?
A: I am in this position until March. Campaign time has not yet come. For now I am mayor and making clear the contract I have with the Parisians, but the Games are a great opportunity to accelerate those changes.
If we won the possibility of organizing them, it was precisely because we had and had a vision about the ecology and transformation of the city to reduce air pollution.
Q: She has been president of C40 for three years. What responsibility do cities have when acting against climate change?
A: They have a great responsibility. In the last three years, the mayors of the world have shown that when we act there are results.
In a world where there has been a lot of skepticism, where they told us 'they are talking about the end of the world but it can never happen, they are against the economy', we have provided proof that the transition is underway and that when it does not leave the People on the side is something that also gives each person more quality of life.
Q: You are one of the strongest faces of the French Socialist Party. With the exception of Portugal, what do you think has happened in the rest of Europe so that socialism is being surpassed by the right and populisms?
A: I am a social democrat, but first of all, mayor of Paris, and I have not been very involved in the life of my party. I look with great joy and enthusiasm what happened in Portugal, with my friend Antonio Costa, who was also mayor of Lisbon. And I look and support, I have always supported Pedro Sánchez from the outset, because I think it is the future of Spain.
I think that today social democracy is very important because social democrats also include this theme of ecology, this new way of seeing the world. We have to turn all this into one of the strengths on which values and social democratic philosophy can contribute something.
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