Decarbonizing Transportation

One moral dilemma for travellers who care about climate change is knowing that international transport raises our carbon footprint significantly. There are small things we can do individually to help minimize our environmental impact, such as zero waste practices or investing in carbon offsets to balance out the emissions. Travel, however, could decrease its carbon footprint if companies and governments invested in decarbonizing transport.

ICAO-logo-360x242Today, at the side event, “Charting Pathways to Decarbonize Transport,” several transportation experts spoke on their modalities and ideas for a common approach across all modes of transport for decarbonizing. It is essential to have a plan to decarbonize all sectors of transport by 2050.

Jane Hughes with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) spoke about how ICAO is addressing aircraft noise and emissions technological improvements, operating procedures, proper organization of air traffic, appropriate airport and land-use planning, and the use of market-based options. ICAO recently created a market-based mechanism, a “carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation” (CORSICA). As of October 2016, 66 States intend to voluntarily participate in this global market based mechanism, which will ultimately help achieve the global aspiration of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards.

There are options available on the national and local levels as well. As we are all too aware in the United States, most people drive their own cars everywhere, rather than taking public transportation. This has lead to an excessive amount of GHG emissions. In the alternative, public transportation could be improved. Alain Flausch from the Union International Association of Public Transport (UITP) stated that while America is not considered a public transit country, 60% of people New York City use public transit. This is evidence that when it is available, people will choose to use public transit. This is imperative for climate change because choosing one subway ride (in exchange for driving) can save 4.5 kilo of GHG emissions saved,

Jose Vegas from the International Transport Forum (ITF) then spoke, explaining that ITF has recently launched a global initiative towards carbon-free transport. This initiative involves several actions with two very important impacts. First, it demonstrates that carbon reduction projects are possible (economically and politically). And second, it inspires emulation in that others may now take similar actions by others. The overall objective of a carbon-free transport is a commonly acceptable roadmap to bring transport to carbon neutrality by 2050. “Common roadmaps” may not mean that the same actions will be taken within every sector, Mr. Vegas mentions, but it does mean that all sectors can have the same end goal.

The ITF can provide perspectives of impacts on local performances, as well as a systems’ view of indirect and induced impacts of local measures. ITF also wants to support governments in identifying measures for their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Decarbonizing transportation sectors will be a challenge, but these policy makers presented exciting news for travellers who want to see the world, while not contributing to its destruction.