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Eric Doherty: Big Auto fails to put transport transformation off COP26 agenda

The COP26 climate talks were a fiasco, with industry lobbyists nearly destroying anything worth it.

Big Auto tried to keep the transport statement’s focus exclusively on electric cars, but ultimately failed, or at least did not succeed completely.

The guidance document titled “COP26 Declaration on Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero Emission Cars and Vans” clearly indicates the extremely narrow target that the automotive and oil industries wanted. However, after public advocacy from a European Union official and interventions from public transport and cycling organizations, the following text was added:

“We recognize that alongside the shift to zero-emission vehicles, a sustainable future for road transport will require a broader transformation of the system, including support for active travel, public and shared transport, as well as consideration of all the impacts on the value chain of production, use and disposal. “

Interestingly, this text covers the carbon footprint of automobiles, “all of the impacts on the value chain”, rather than just tailpipe emissions. Electric cars are not zero emissions, a significant portion of a car’s carbon footprint comes from initial manufacturing and aftermarket parts, such as new tires.

Glasgow’s brief COP26 deal doesn’t even include the word transport. The transport declaration, and the ideas being discussed by experts and the public, is the subject of the battle between automakers and sustainable transport groups at COP26.

Roadmap to Fewer vsars — not just mew (electric) vsars

A major new report on transport and climate was also released at COP26. The “TUMI Transport Outlook 1.5 ° C: A Global Scenario to Decarbonise Transport” presents a global scenario for rapidly reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from transport in order to stay within the carbon budget necessary to limit global warming climate at 1.5 ° C. It aims to provide a “clear path to transformation, backed by ‘hard’ numbers for policy makers around the world” who are committed to complying with the Paris Agreement.

A crucial short-term action is to reduce car trips in urban areas.

The Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) report calls for a transformative change in transportation systems, rather than just switching to electric cars. The scenario for staying below the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 ° C of heating includes:

  • End sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030, earlier in rich countries.
  • Increase walking and cycling to 50 percent by 2030 by creating routes for biking, riding and walking as well as Amsterdam or Copenhagen in cities around the world.
  • Double the capacity of public transport by 2030 and ensure that public transport users do not get stuck in traffic by creating public transport lanes.
  • Shift freight from trucks to rail and electrify at least 70% of railways by 2030.
  • Supplying transport with renewable electricity through batteries or direct connection, using inefficient hydrogen and electro-fuels only where it is really needed. Biofuels from energy crops like canola are not used.

TUMI explains these points in this short video.

Transportation is one of the biggest sources of GHG pollution globally and the fastest growing. The TUMI report notes that 65% of the world’s oil is used directly for transportation, and about a quarter of energy-related CO2 comes from transportation.

The report states that “urgent and far-reaching measures must be taken as the window for reducing emissions will close soon.” Reducing travel by car and plane is a crucial part of this.

Because “electric aviation does not realistically play a role in large amounts of carbon reduction before 2040”, electric passenger trains and highway buses will have to replace a large percentage of short and medium-haul flights, as well. than many longer car trips. . Electrifying major railroads in Canada and the United States would be a monumental project and would employ thousands of construction workers for at least a decade.

The TUMI report includes Canada, the United States and Mexico, and for the 1.5 ° C scenario, the reduction in car trips required is substantial. In 2030, passenger-kilometers traveled are 22% lower than in 2019 and 43% lower in 2050. This is comparable to the goal of the Canadian province of British Columbia of a 25% reduction in trips. light vehicles by 2030. Other jurisdictions, such as California, have less ambitious traffic reduction targets.

A turning point

The COP26 transport declaration and the TUMI Transport Outlook indicate that a major transformation of our transport systems is urgently needed. But government policy and public opinion appear to be in an unstable state of cognitive dissonance. Many of us know transformative changes are needed, but want to believe that the status quo with a few electric cars and a few bike lanes is enough.

In the Stockholm metro, home of Greta Thunberg, instead of funding the transformation needed to reduce the number of cars, the Swedish government is spending billions of euros to expand the suburban motorway network. In Canada and the United States, even states and provinces with ambitious traffic reduction targets are carrying out billions of dollars in highway and highway expansion projects.

It takes a lot of mental energy to defend extremely inconsistent positions, like spending billions to widen freeways when you anticipate much less traffic. How long can this last?

George Monbiot’s response to COP26 suggests that we are near a societal tipping point and that social convention can be reversed to “become our greatest source of power, normalizing what now seems radical”.

Are you ready to help make a world with far fewer cars seem like common sense rather than an unrealistic dream?