Aim low, go high: 3 inspiring examples for Zero Emissions Day


A volcano in carbon neutral Costa Rica
Costa Rica is powered by hydroelectricity as well as geothermal, wind, solar and biomass energy.


Three years after COP21, 85% of the global population lives in areas where the World Health Organization guidelines for carbon emissions are exceeded, in part due to mobility systems. On top of that, car ownership is predicted to double and freight transport to quadruple by 2050. This means there is a lot of work to be done in order to implement the net zero-emission economy objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

To celebrate Zero Emissions Day — a global, 24-hour moratorium on the use of fossil fuels held every September 21 — here are inspiring examples of a country, a city and a company taking concrete actions towards zero emissions.


Clean like Costa Rica

In 2007, the Costa Rican government committed to going carbon neutral, and while the target date is subject to political debate, the goal is ambitious and has been upheld by successive administrations.

To get there, the country has to tackle its next big challenge: going from oil to electricity for transportation. Monica Araya of Costa Rica Limpia, a citizen group promoting clean energy, is at the helm of this cultural shift. At the Movin’On World Summit on Sustainable Mobility 2018, she identified three main areas of work for any country aiming to take on the challenge of zero emissions:

1) Technological: Develop the new technologies and identify the engineering and technocratic issues. Show that it’s feasible and develop a roadmap that demonstrates how to achieve it.

2) Coalition building: Find champions, early adopters, sympathetic elected officials and supportive businesses. Bring together an alliance of people willing to challenge conventional wisdom and work together to change the paradigm.

3) Public opinion: Take it to the people, break down myths, generate enthusiasm and make it a part of their lives. Make sure that there is no turning back.


“If you want to become a fossil fuel-free country, it’s about people embracing it. It has to become embedded in everyday life.” — Monica Araya


Free like Dunkirk

Since September 1, 2018, public transportation has been completely free every day for everybody in the city of Dunkirk, France. After two years of testing free public transit on the weekends (which sparked a usage hike of  78% on Sundays), Mayor Patrice Vergriete moved forward with this game-changing measure. With more than 200,000 inhabitants, it’s now the biggest European city to do so.

Dunkirk’s free buses by the numbers:

  • ticket sales represented 10% of the cost of public transit and 2% of the city’s entire budget, or 5 million euros a year
  • upgrades in services, including new buses, infrastructure and Wi-Fi cost between 5 and 2 million euros a year
  • the 6 million euros in loss of revenue is compensated by a transit tax on businesses

Beyond cost, the commuter satisfaction has been one of the main focuses of this shift. With free, comfortable and efficient transportation solutions, the citizens of Dunkirk may find themselves tempted to leave their car at home.


Responsible like Engie

According to Engie CEO Isabelle Kocher, who spoke at the Movin’On Summit 2018, the more responsible a company is, the more competitive it becomes.

Recently, Engie made a bold structural choice: to get rid of assets related to activities that were not compatible with their sustainability values. These assets represented 20% of the company’s revenue. Within two years, this decision led to the sale of these non-compatible activities for 15 billion euros, which enabled reinvestment of this amount in integrated positive solutions like green mobility. Since then, the group has been more profitable and has resolved 8-billion-euros in debt.

Following this logic, Engie also decided to lower its dividends in order to focus on growth rather than performance, which led to 5% growth in 2017.

By cutting back on polluting energy solutions, Engie proved that sustainable values and performance are reconcilable.


“We can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. We have decided to be part of the solution.” — Isabelle Kocher


Citizens, cities, companies and countries make choices every day that impact emissions of CO2 and other particulates. On this Zero Emissions Day, why not give a shout out to individuals and organizations that do things right, and that inspire others to make conscious, positive choices?