Public transport and the climate: who has committed what?

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In the lead up to COP21 in Paris, national governments have been submitting their plans on how they are going to set about cutting their carbon emissions.

Any attempt to meet the global emissions cutting goals must give particular attention to the contribution that public transport can make.

It has been widely recognised by observers, however, that the commitments submitted so far will not be not sufficient to keep global warming below 2ºC. In terms of emissions, the transport sector is a big deal. Already responsible for 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions, urban land transport emissions are predicted to double by 2050.

Therefore any attempt to meet the global emissions cutting goals must address urban transport, with particular attention given to the contribution that public transport can make. COP21 represents a significant opportunity to expand public transport and encourage more sustainable mobility behaviour which will help both cut emissions and drive growth.      

Among the commitments, or ‘Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions,’ already received there are some promising signs. Though a small minority of countries have as yet declined to elaborate on how they will go about slashing transport emissions or simply remain ambiguous, more than 90% have taken a proactive approach giving concrete examples of how they plan to address the transport sector’s carbon footprint.

From commitment to action

India has committed to a focus on ‘low carbon public transportation systems such as railways,’ it plans to increase the modal share of rail in land transport from 36% to 45%.

Numerous countries have pledged to focus on measures that will encourage either the avoidance of carbon emissions or a shift to more sustainable modes. Argentina, for example states that rail will become of national public interest and a priority objective. Countries such as Benin, Turkey, Azerbaijan and UAE have all detailed plans to expand and develop urban rail infrastructure.

India meanwhile has committed to a focus on ‘low carbon public transportation systems such as railways,’ stating that it plans to increase the modal share of rail in land transport from 36% to 45%.

Other avoid and shift incentives include pledges from countries such as Ethiopia to focus on increasing the density of urban centres in order to prevent urban sprawl and the resultant car-dependent communities it creates.

 China will give priority to the development of its public transport, aiming at a 30% modal share for public transport in medium and large cities by 2030.

Countries including Jordan, Mongolia, Thailand and Uruguay have all issued pledges to develop their Bus Rapid Transit networks, whilst a whole host of others including Brazil, Cambodia, Guinea, Benin or Senegal explained that they will ‘promote‘, ‘strengthen’ or ‘develop’ public transport. China will give priority to the development of its public transport, aiming at a 30% modal share for public transport in medium and large cities by 2030.

Others, such as Canada, Guinea, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea and Bangladesh have detailed plans to improve the energy efficiency of existing transport infrastructure and fleets, citing initiatives to provide tax breaks for low-carbon vehicles or modernising public transport fleets.

The transport commitments that have been made will serve as a vital tool in the months and years after the COP for public transport to hold national governments to account and to deliver on their pledges. UITP members have also issued 350 of their own pledges that will play a key role in helping national governments meet their emissions targets.

Developing public transport supply and providing incentives for people to actually use it will play a vital role in future years helping economies to grow whilst at the same time cutting carbon emissions. 

  • To find out more about UITP’s role at COP21 and other relevant information, please click here.

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