The vital role of trains, buses and cycles in cutting urban pollution are underlined in a new study released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Drawing on research in 30 cities, the report suggests that investing in efficient transport schemes could save $70 trillion in spending on vehicles, fuel and infrastructure up to 2050.
Specifically it calls on governments to adopt what it calls an ‘avoid, shift and improve’ philosophy, reducing unnecessary travel in cars, lubricating movement across cities and investing in better trains and buses.
“As the share of the world’s population living in cities grows to nearly 70% by 2050 and energy consumption for transport in cities is expected to double, the need for efficient, affordable, safe and high-capacity transport solutions will become more acute,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven in a statement.
“Urgent steps to improve the efficiency of urban transport systems are needed not only for energy security reasons, but also to mitigate the numerous negative climate, noise, air pollution, congestion and economic impacts of rising urban transport volumes.”
Global transport energy use has increased 30% during the past decade – the equivalent of doubling 2000 transport energy consumption levels in the United States.
Transport emissions alone grew by nearly two billion annual tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) since 2000.
The IEA expects annual global urban transport emissions to more than double to nearly one billion annual tonnes of CO2e by 2025.
Energy consumption for transport in cities is expected to double by 2050. More people are predicted to move to urban areas as the global population swells to above 10 billion by 2100.
As they do, so the dangers of pollution and poor air quality are likely to be exacerbated. Around 4,300 early deaths a year are attributable to airborne pollution, according to studies by the Mayor of London.
Private motor vehicles are the main target of this report, and policies that discourage vehicle ownership such as London’s congestion charge are encouraged.
Investment in cycle lanes and technology allowing individuals to plan their journeys from home are offered as effective incentives to ditch cars.
Increasing the density of urban areas is one recommendation that may surprise readers. The IEA admits this requires ‘years of planning’ but argues it means fewer car journeys.
“This transition will require more than advances in vehicle technologies: fuel efficiency improvements alone cannot mitigate the consequences of a world in which nearly 70% of all movements will be made by motorised roadway travel in more than 3 billion vehicles in 2050,” the report says.
“Instead, 21st century travel efficiency will require shifts in how we perceive, design, operate and manage the world’s transport systems.”