A significant new report supported by the World Economic Forum argues there must be a “transport transformation” if the planet is to benefit from the Paris Agreement’s decarbonization commitments.
The Transport for Under Two Degrees project published its Way Forward report on October 8 arguing that governments around the world should stop subsidizing motoring and must, instead, build cycleways and wider sidewalks to anticipate the likely future of “active transport” in cities.
Public transit use must also be boosted, urges the T4<2° project, which was commissioned by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, or Auswärtiges Amt, and produced by the Berlin-based think-tank Agora Verkehrswende and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, or GIZ, a federal consultancy service.
Way Forward—two years in the making—is based on existing studies and new qualitative interviews with international experts from the transport and energy sectors, including from companies, NGOs and national and local governments. A further 346 senior experts, from 56 countries, were quizzed with follow-up surveys.
“As the study underlines, decarbonization of the transport sector is crucial and, at the same time, possible, given our technical advances and the international governance structure,” stressed the report’s foreword, written by Hinrich Thölken, Director for Energy and Climate Policy at Auswärtiges Amt.
The report—Transport for Under Two Degrees: the way forward—acknowledges that the massive drop in motoring during national lockdowns showed that change is possible: “Responses to COVID-19 have shown potential for systemic changes to the mobility sector.”
There is now an “opportunity to align governance structures in the mobility sector towards a more sustainable, resilient, efficient and inclusive system,” adds the report which highlights ten “key insights” that policymakers worldwide should consider to decarbonize their transport systems.
The insights are hardly novel—transport can only be decarbonized if married to a massive expansion of wind and solar power, for instance—but the predictions of how we will travel in cities and rural areas within 30 years will come as a shock to those who remain wedded to their cars.
The experts say that personal car use in the cities of the future won’t be sustainable, and policymakers will have to legislate to remove cars from the urban environment. If this occurs, the majority of the experts believe the full decarbonization of the transport sector is possible by mid-century.
However, forget clever fixes: the experts overwhelmingly agree that instead of tech solutions people must be forced to switch away from planet-damaging transport modes.
“There is no technological solution to a societal problem,” said Agora Verkehrswende director Christian Hochfeld