Transport is the world’s fastest growing source of energy-related carbon emissions. It accounted for 23% of energy-related GHG emissions in 2010, and, within that, urban transport was the largest single source.
Depending on where you live, transport also contributes anywhere between 12-70% of urban air pollution, while at least 184,000 deaths in 2010 could be specifically attributed to air pollution from vehicles. Lengthy commutes also eat into productivity and leisure time – such as India’s average 1.5-hour daily commute. This comes with economic costs – in Beijing, motorized transport’s congestion, air pollution, crashes, and noise cost 7.5%-15% of its GDP.
Because of these profound effects on sustainability, health, economics and quality of life, improving urban transport can solve many problems all at the same time. Shifting a city’s dominant transport mode from private cars to mass transit can prevent sprawl and promote livable density, affecting land values and carbon footprints for decades to come. Being able to move efficiently and affordably enables equity and upward mobility by creating access to jobs and education. Switching to electric transport can enhance energy independence by reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Beyond these environmental and social benefits, sustainable cities are a smart investment. Analysis by Vivid Economics and Stockholm Environmental Institute for the Coalition for Urban Transitions’ recent report Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity found that bundle of 16 low-carbon investments and measures in cities across the transport, buildings, materials and waste sectors could cut global urban emissions by 90% by 2050 and has present value of almost $24 trillion, equivalent to nearly one-third of the 2018 global GDP.
In particular, investments and measures in low-carbon passenger transport had returns that were miles ahead of other sectors, including buildings, material efficiency and waste. Three had particularly high returns: deploying more efficient and electric vehicles, implementing a mode shift to mass transit, and reducing demand for motorized travel.
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