Home Technology Electric cars aren’t enough to hit climate goals – public transport is also key

Electric cars aren’t enough to hit climate goals – public transport is also key

Electric cars aren’t enough to hit climate goals – public transport is also key

UCC’s Vera O’Riordan explains why specializing in changing standard cars with EVs is a ‘missed alternative’ for international locations to also develop different technique of transport and assist meet world climate targets.

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A model of this text was initially printed by The Conversation (CC BY-ND 4.0)

Transport is responsible for 24pc of energy-related carbon emissions worldwide. Half of these emissions are from carrying items and companies, and the opposite half are from carrying individuals from A to B – also referred to as passenger transport.

Passenger transport has a big impact on our environment, and it’s one of many greatest components in figuring out the place we dwell and work. It might be bumper-to-bumper LA visitors, bike-filled Danish cities, Japanese bullet trains, buzzing Vietnamese mopeds, taxi ranks lined with India’s well-known three-wheeled rickshaws, or bustling London subways.

Introducing electric vehicles (EVs) on an enormous scale has typically been framed as the answer to lowering passenger transport emissions – witness the UK’s plans for all new houses and upgraded buildings to have EV charging factors from 2022.

However, recent research from the US has proven that the electrification of cars alone is not going to be enough for the transport sector to attain formidable world climate action targets aiming to stop greater than two levels Celsius of world warming.

In addition, a inhabitants that continues to rely on cars poses vital issues for rising cities. With urbanisation on the rise and area at a premium, we should cut back automobile possession in cities if we’re to preserve them as inexpensive and accessible as attainable. Huge amounts of land which might in any other case be used to home individuals or be devoted to nature are nonetheless reserved for roads and automobile parks.

Although EVs definitely assist handle rising transport emissions, merely specializing in changing standard cars with EVs is a missed opportunity for international locations to develop different means of transport past automobile dependency.

Climate motion funds – together with the Adaptation Fund, a UN-backed worldwide fund serving to creating international locations to adapt to the climate disaster – are projected to attain $100bn of funding by 2023. Much of this cash is channelled in the direction of sustainable infrastructure tasks, which might assist creating international locations to construct environment friendly and sustainable mass-transit methods.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advocates for an method to passenger transport planning known as ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’, which is tailored from a framework first developed in Germany within the early Nineties.


‘Avoid’ refers to lowering the necessity for transport within the first place. This includes planning new city areas and redeveloping outdated ones to be as effectively organised as attainable, so individuals is not going to have to journey far for his or her working, purchasing, schooling and leisure wants. While years of funding into roads have made it very troublesome for some cities to transfer away from automobile use, the long run is nonetheless unwritten for a lot of of our rising cities.

This method also includes connecting houses and rural cities to the web so that folks can simply and cheaply do business from home, leaving street area free for individuals – like docs or academics – who can’t.


‘Shift’ means switching mandatory journey to extra sustainable, lively and higher-occupancy modes of transport. Instead of single-occupancy cars, for instance, we are able to use buses, trains, bikes, scooters, skateboards or strolling paths. Across the world, we are able to see thrilling examples of how international locations have managed to make this shift away from carbon-intensive automobile dependency.

The TransMilenio bus system, working within the cities of Bogotá and Soacha in Colombia, is one of many largest of its sort on the planet. Transporting between 1m and 2m individuals each day, its broad vary of stops, devoted bus lanes and inexpensive ticketing stations create an simply accessible service.

Increasing the uptake of lively modes of journey is one other method to encourage this shift. E-bikes are among the many fastest-growing forms of transport in China. The motor-assisted journey encourages biking longer journeys in hilly areas, hotter areas and amongst people who find themselves much less match. Studies from Sweden and Norway present that cyclists who change from standard bikes to e-bikes enhance their variety of journeys and the distances they journey on common for every journey.

Recently, residents of Berlin voted to develop automobile restrictions within the German metropolis to cowl 88 sq km of town – a proposal which might create the world’s largest car-free city zone. Actions like these can handle the security issues of pedestrians and cyclists, who concern navigating alongside fast-moving, heavy automobiles, by offering segregated lively journey routes.

Importantly, researchers have noted that with out measures to limit automobile use, different measures to encourage the uptake of public transport, strolling and biking have little impression.

Once pointless journey has been reduce from issues like poor city planning and employer insurance policies requiring staff’ presence in places of work, and as soon as protected public transport methods or lively journey choices have been supplied, we are able to concentrate on making the automobiles we at the moment have extra sustainable.


Although gas effectivity has barely decreased the gas consumption per kilometre of automobile transport, passenger transport demand continues to develop – which means that general, elevated emissions from passenger transport outstrip effectivity reductions. As a end result, the ‘enhance’ a part of the UN’s framework includes switching bus, rail and automobile transport from fossil fuels to electrical.

The key to lowering passenger transport emissions is enabling entry to and use of electrical cars solely the place there are not any different cheap journey choices. If we do that, now we have an opportunity to finish automobile dependency whereas nonetheless serving to as many individuals as attainable to journey.

The Conversation

By Vera O’Riordan

Vera O’Riordan is a PhD researcher at Science Foundation Ireland’s Marine and Renewable Energy Institute (MaREI) based mostly at University College Cork. She works with the Energy Policy and Modelling Group to mannequin previous, current and future emissions from transport, with funding from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

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