Transport network needs urgent green ‘policy attention’

Overhauling urban transport networks through a package of energy efficiency policies could reduce total global expenditures on vehicles, fuels and transport infrastructure by as much as $70tr (£47tr) by 2050, a new report claims.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), urgent policy attention to improve the energy efficiency of urban transport systems is needed “not only for energy security reasons, but also to mitigate the negative climate, noise, air pollution, congestion and economic impacts of rising urban transport volumes and energy consumption”.

The IEA’s report, A Tale of Renewed Cities, shows that the three policy groups required to realise these savings are categorised as those that allow travel to be “avoided”, “shift” travel to more efficient modes and those that “improve” the efficiency of vehicle and fuel technologies, known collectively as an “avoid, shift and improve” approach.

It adds that improving urban transport energy efficiency can be achieved in cities with high private vehicle travel activity that can promote shifts to non-motorised transport, such as bicycles, walking and public transport modes.

Stressing the severity of the problem, the IEA warn that urban transport energy consumption is expected to double by 2050, despite ongoing vehicle technology and fuel-economy improvements.

Annual global urban transport emissions are expected to more than double to nearly 1 billion annual tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2025 with 90% of this growth in urban transport emissions expected to come from private motorised travel.

IEA’s executive director Maria van der Hoeven said: “The effects of growing travel demand and increasing shifts to private motorisation are leading to escalating roadway congestion that costs billions of dollars in wasted fuel and time.

“Moreover, motorised vehicle traffic has significant adverse effects on health, contributing substantially to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from outdoor air pollution, and deteriorated safety in cities, leading to more than 1.3 million deaths per year from traffic accidents,” she added.

The report also highlights best practice in cities around the world and focuses on Belgrade, New York City and Seoul – all of which have effectively planned, implemented, monitored and evaluated key urban transport system policies in order to improve energy security and quality of life.

The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) awarded Belgrade for its public transport modernisation projects in support of the UITP initiative to double the market share of public transport by 2025 and the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) presented New York City and Seoul with the International Sustainable Transport Award.

Leigh Stringer

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