Recently I took part in a panel debate in Germany on what transports can do to reduce the contribution to global warming.
There is hope.
The technicians presented lists of new less energy consuming technologies to implement.
The architects proposed new city plans that would require less travel and transports.
The traffic planers presented new roads, bridges and tunnels.
For person transports, some make plans where the behaviour of people will change and others assume that the transports simply will increase.
Most of the greenhouse gas emissions globally originate from the use of fossil energy use, although farming, forestry and land use also make significant contributions.
It is clear that more than 80% of the energy used on the planet comes from oil (33%), coal (27%) and gas (21%). This energy is traded on an open global market and almost all energy use in society is interconnected. By saving any type of energy the emissions of fossil carbon dioxide is indirectly decreased. Therefore it is equally important to decrease the energy use as well as the emissions of green house gases.
The picture below is from the “Stern Report” and the transport sector to the right is a global picture made by the US department of energy based on data from EIA. The light duty vehicles both include cars and light duty trucks.
Statistics from the Stern report
It is important that all countries make the efforts required to turn the development. It is equally important that each sector takes control of their respective responsibilities without making it worse for others. Also within the transportation sector each mode of transportation will have to make contributions.
I don’t get upset easily. However, when I hear in a panel debate that efficient solutions such as high capacity Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems buses should not be utilised “because it would become too competitive versus trams”, then I get really upset. When politicians prevent improvement by obstructing the development in other areas than their personal pet choices, then I get upset. If the trams are not competitive and have too low capacity, too high energy use, cause too many accidents and are too loud, it is something that can only be addressed by allowing other alternatives to compete, not by protecting the trams by obstructing the deployment of bus systems.
My point is that all modes of transportation need to improve. For development and evolution, open competition helps a lot. For person transports, the energy use and the emissions of greenhouse gases cause most of the environmental load. It is essential to decrease both. It is not positive to subsidise high speed trains for example, when the energy use per passenger kilometre is substantially higher than for the main alternative. For distances shorter than 400km the bus is mostly the main alternative and for longer distances in developed countries aeroplanes are preferred by the travellers. To secure that all transportation improve it is essential to compare the performance in an objective way.