Making the Green New Deal Happen Blog Series, May 2021: Achieving the low-carbon transition in transport is about so much more than the electric car

Blog

 

Beth Morley from CENEX illustrates the grass-roots approaches needed in European cities to achieve the shift in mobility culture to meet Europe’s Green Deal targets.

 

America is coming for Norway’s green credentials – at least according to Will Ferrell in the General Motors Super Bowl advert. A flurry of car manufacturers have stated their intention to go electric. We are now in a position to talk about when, not if, the European ‘car parc’ of total registered vehicles will be all low carbon.  Yet it is important that green deal politics avoids a one dimensional focus on the electric car.  Alongside, we are witnessing an explosion in small electric mobility from bigger and better electric bikes to the new kid on the block, the eScooter. This is an exciting step in technological innovation, if not without its challenges. However, the electrification of our current transport system will not be sufficient to decarbonise our travel, or address inequalities and inefficiencies that are ingrained in our car-centric transport system. There is a need to consider the movement of people differently.

If we were to design an urban transport system from scratch – with each transport mode making their case based on efficiency, convenience, safety, emissions, and system integration – it is unlikely that the private car would come top in any category. Mass transit is a far more efficient method of moving around and, when joined up with last-mile mobility such as bike and e Scooter and supported by car-sharing, the transport system can be made safer, cleaner, and greener for all. If the use of shared and sustainable modes of transport can be supported through policy and regulation, then we will see a reduction in congestion and transport inequality. Less congestion leads to improved air quality, freeing up urban space and resulting in better health and wellbeing of the population.

This can only be achieved through systemic change, and this change cannot be imposed from the top down. Changing mobility culture crucially depends on councils taking people with them. CENEX has been involved in several pilots across Europe where we are experimenting with how co- design and collaboration can do this. At the beginning of last year, Cenex worked with the local authority and car club operator in Nottingham to implement electric car sharing in an inner-city neighbourhood with high levels of deprivation. We demonstrated the benefit of talking early and openly to local communities and how collaboration with third sector and voluntary organisations can help to overcome barriers. You can find out more about the project here.

Part of this requires policymakers to alter the way they think about and plan transport. The Climate-KIC SuSMo project is working with city partners to explore how policy, regulation, procurement, private-sector engagement, behaviour change, and data use can be harnessed to enact this systemic change. The project partners have developed tools, resources and frameworks aimed at making the processes for delivering shared sustainable transport easier.

Behaviour change is needed not just to address transport users, but also changing the attitudes and cultural norms of municipalities towards shared mobility. All those involved in the delivery of transport services should consider shared mobility options as integral to a city’s transport plan, linking them with walking and public transport to make daily life without private car ownership easy for all. In Stockholm, the project has been working with council officials and property developers to explore this. The outcome of this work showed that it is crucial for municipalities to include shared transport in their planning – whether that is in their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, in their transport strategies or in a specific ‘shared transport’ strategy.

Alongside this, these plans are most effective when developed using good quality data, monitoring and evaluating the impacts of shared mobility.  Nowadays shared mobility can be found around the globe, but often the broad range of impacts that it can have on a city are not understood by the citizens and the city authorities, therefore hindering truly integrated adoption. Evaluating these impacts is of critical importance for modern cities, in their endeavour to create a sustainable, people-oriented urban transport system.

In towns and cities across Europe the digital revolution is opening up endless possibilities for shared mobility in a whole variety of ways. These need to be expanded, evaluated and the lessons shared so that the momentum towards a low carbon transition in transport is accelerated and not just restricted to the replacement of the petrol car.

Cities and local authorities need to understand the future landscape of the transport network to inform the decisions they make today. Though forecasting technology developments is not an exact science, there are clear indicators today that can help inform likely trends in future, shared mobility transport. When teamed up with policy expertise and drawing on the practical experience of pilot experiments this becomes a powerful tool in breaking down existing systems and considering where changes and shifts can occur.

At the beginning of this piece, I highlighted how technological innovation alone is not enough to achieve sustainable and inclusive transport systems. To meet the ambitions set out in Europe’s Green Deal and the UK’s green industrial revolution requires a wholesale transformation of our transport systems and a major shift towards shared mobility. To achieve systemic change, to reach the climate goals, we can no longer work in silos, and that means technological innovators and social policymakers too. They’ll need to work together and with citizens to make the transition happen.

 


Beth Morley is based at Cenex, the Low Carbon and Fuel Cells Centre of Excellence.

This blog is produced by TIPC and partner, EIT Climate-KIC

The editors of this blog series are Fred Steward, Emeritus Professor, School of Architecture and Cities, University of Westminster, London; and Jon Bloomfield, Systems Innovation Policy Advisor, Climate Innovation Ecosystems, the European Institute of Technology’s Climate Knowledge & Innovation Community (EIT Climate-KIC).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *