I am a transport planner and transport economist by education. In the past ten years, I have worked on assessing the impact of transport on the environment and on developing policy measures that help increase transport's sustainability. The International Transport Forum, ITF, at the OECD is a global transport policy think-tank with over 62 member countries. The ITF’s decarbonising transport initiative aims to help policymakers make the right decisions to meet their climate ambitions, based on quantitative evidence. We are very grateful for our co-operation with our member country Ireland, which has held the ITF's presidency for the past two years. Collaborating with representatives from Ireland has allowed us to produce innovative and insightful work for the greater Dublin area and beyond. In what follows, I rely on much of this work to ensure my intervention is as Ireland-specific as possible for a representative from an intergovernmental organisation. I am focusing on passenger transport, as I believe one of today's other witnesses will perfectly cover considerations regarding freight transport.
The committee’s aim to take action in line with the "avoid-shift-improve" framework is laudable. Following this framework allows for the development of a sustainable transport system that is equitable, accessible and safe, and which drives economic productivity and has limited environmental impacts. Deep emissions cuts will require true transformations. They will require embracing innovations and potential disruptions, and they will likely require taking risks and taking decisions under uncertainty. To mitigate any risks and reduce uncertainty, evidence-based, holistic and long-term planning, based on quantitative evidence, best practice and scenario analysis, is required. It is essential to start now to look beyond 2030 and even beyond 2050 to avoid missing relevant actions today that will have essential impacts in the future.
Measures in the avoid category will help decouple economic growth from increases in transport demand. Land use measures that encourage compact developments and the redevelopment of local centres in line with the concept of the 15-minute city are essential to reduce travel distances and to encourage shifts to more sustainable modes. The pandemic will also provide the opportunity to encourage teleworking. However, teleworking practices under non-pandemic circumstances are likely to have rebound effects. People will increase their travel activity during their leisure time.
This is where the importance of shift measures becomes even more apparent. Individual motorised mobility needs to shift to active modes or to shared and efficient motorised modes, where required. These may be the classic public transport modes. However, transport innovations can and should play a significant role as well. ITF research for the greater Dublin area has shown that if 20% of private car trips were replaced with shared mobility on-demand modes, emissions would fall by more than 20%. These reductions do not assume that shared vehicles may be electric, which by now would be a feasible option as well. A transport system based on such shared mobility can decarbonise transport while promoting a truly sustainable transport system, including the use of existing bus and rail networks. Another ITF study shows that if 20% of car users were to shift to shared services, mobility demand would require 40% less street space. This space could be used for active modes or green spaces, greatly enhancing the liveability of the city. The deployment and uptake of such innovations need to be encouraged by sufficient financial and regulatory supports. Measures can include congestion charging, low emission zones, dynamic parking pricing, the phase-out of subsidised parking and so forth. When implementing such measures, it must first be ensured that adequate travel alternatives exist.
Improve measures comprise instruments that improve the use of fuels, the efficiency of vehicles and the performance of related infrastructure. In Europe and elsewhere, electricity has been gaining ground as the alternative energy carrier to fossil fuels in transport. In addition, smaller, lighter vehicles, electric or not, will always outperform their heavier, larger counterparts. People should be encouraged to use the right size of vehicle at all times. This brings us back to the concept of vehicle sharing.
In this case, it is about ensuring that vehicle rental systems allow for renting a vehicle of the right size, be it for an urban trip or a holiday trip for several weeks.
Reaping benefits from avoid-and-shift measures will take time. This has two main implications for policymakers. First, they need to move fast on these measures to get them under way. Second, relying on the uptake of electric vehicles will be unavoidable if Ireland is to achieve 2030 targets. However, it is advisable to do this smartly. This means it is necessary to: encourage the uptake of full electric vehicles and avoid long transition periods via hybrid alternatives; ensure that additional electricity demands are fully covered by renewable energy sources; deploy electric vehicles where they are most useful and where more sustainable alternatives do not exist - for example, in public fleets and in non-urban areas; speed up the uptake of electric vehicles, in line with the conditions just mentioned, via well-targeted fiscal measures and the provision of infrastructure; and, finally, consider the fuel tax shortfall that countries with high electric vehicle uptake would face and prepare for it accordingly.
I will say a word about the people. Mobility choices are individual choices. The challenge that lies ahead will require behavioural changes by each of us. It will require people to reassess and change their habits, and maybe even their way of life. Some may even be required to accept higher expenditure - in time or money - on their mobility needs, at least in the short run. Such changes will not be easy. Nobody should therefore diminish the importance of bringing people from all walks of life on board, including the effort this will take. It will require communicating the importance and, yes, the urgency of climate action, as well as the relevance of individual behaviour. It will also require communicating that meeting climate ambitions is achievable and that a successful transition has the potential to result in societal benefits far beyond carbon dioxide emissions reductions alone.
The pandemic provides an opportunity to build back better and for each individual to go from exceptions to new, sustainable routines. Let us not miss this opportunity.