How can the Environmental Impact of Transport be Reduced?

Climate and environment blog

How can the environmental impact of transport be reduced?
One of the biggest challenges for environmental work is reducing the negative impact of transport on the climate and the environment. To achieve this, the transition to more energy-efficient vehicles and the transition to renewable fuels is not enough.

The transition to a transport sector with reduced environmental impact needs to be based on three legs – energy-efficient and fossil-free vehicles, a higher proportion of renewable fuels for operating the vehicles, and a more transport-efficient society.

Transport needs to be more energy-efficient and more space-efficient

In order to reduce the climate impact of the transport sector, vehicles must be more energy-efficient and the proportion of vehicles fueled with renewable fuels will increase. However, according to research and investigations, this will not be enough. Traffic also needs to decrease and more need to choose alternatives to car and air travel and truck transport respectively.

The trips and transports that are made need to be done with energy-efficient vehicles and renewable fuels in all types of traffic. Reduced demand for travel and transport by car, truck, and airline requires community planning for a more transport-efficient society.

Transport-efficient society means that the traffic (the distance the vehicles travel in total) decreases with energy-intensive motorized transport by passenger car, truck, and airplane.

This is about influencing the demand for travel and transport, the modes of transport we choose, and how long distances we travel / transport goods.

Reducing traffic is about focusing on accessibility to goods and activities, rather than physical mobility. Traffic can be reduced by reducing or completely replacing travel and transport: through, for example, telecommunications and urban planning. Reduced traffic work is also achieved when the journeys and transport that are still to be completed can be streamlined. This could be through a transfer from, for example, car travelers to alternative modes of transport that are more energy-efficient, through increased filling capacity per vehicle, because the vehicles and the infrastructure used to have a less environmental impact in manufacturing and scraping and so on.

More efficient transport reduces the need for new infrastructure

To reduce the environmental impact of transport, transport infrastructure – roads, railways, ports and airports – and the existing transport system need to be used as energy-efficient and surface-efficient as possible.

When planning transport infrastructure, government directives often state that the so-called four-step principle should be used. It means, first and foremost, that measures must be chosen that can reduce the demand for transport or influence the choice of mode of transport so that the existing transport system can be used more efficiently. First and foremost, reconstruction of roads and railways should be considered, and as a final step construction of new infrastructure.

The planning of the transport infrastructure affects how we travel and transport

The infrastructure for transport that is being built needs to favor modes of transport that have a less negative impact on the environment: for example, public transport and bicycles for passenger travel and rail and shipping for freight transport.

Transport infrastructure controls where businesses and housing are located and thus what travel and transport patterns arise.

Which infrastructure is being built has a major impact on people’s and businesses ‘ ability to choose energy-efficient travel and transport for a long time to come. If there is no tramway, bike path or harbor then that type of travel and transport cannot be done.

National and regional plans for the development of transport infrastructure affect how society and traffic develop for many years to come.

City and countryside have different conditions for reducing traffic

Both conditions and solutions for people’s and businesses ‘ accessibility look different in the city and in the countryside. Accessibility can be achieved in other ways than by traveling and transporting, not least in and between cities and towns. The development of telecommunications makes it possible to work and participate in meetings without physical transport, also far outside cities. Coordination of freight transport increases the filling rate per transport and reduces the number of vehicle kilometers with truck.

Sustainable urban planning reduces traffic and its environmental impact

How infrastructure for transport is planned and built, and where homes and workplaces are located, is crucial for creating cities and agglomerations with more efficient transport that reduces their environmental impact.

By providing a shorter distance between housing and service with density and functional mix in the buildings, it is possible for more people to choose the car and walk, cycle and travel collectively. If the city space is used instead to make it easy to drive and park the car, more people choose to travel this way.

It’s about not incorporating a car addiction from the beginning but preventing environmental problems by planning for access without a car. So the principle should be in sustainable urban planning.

Some examples of sustainable urban planning that reduce the demand for car traffic:

  • A development structure that favors public transport, pedestrian and bicycle traffic reduces the need to take the car in order to move.
  • Short distances between housing, work, service and leisure activities make it possible to reduce car dependency.
  • Environmental zones for heavy and light vehicles reduce emissions of air pollution and noise from car traffic.
  • Increased coordination of freight transport can increase the degree of filling and reduce the number of transport in cities and towns.
  • Less space for car parking spaces makes room for other types of traffic more sustainable than cars. Then the urban land can be used for other than traffic – for housing construction and areas for leisure activities and green areas.
  • Safe and secure pedestrian and bicycle paths reduce the need for parents to drive the children by car to school and leisure activities.

In this way, cities are developed that give residents and business high accessibility without at the same time counteracting the environmental goals.

On behalf of the Government, the National Housing Agency has produced a guide for how climate goals can be promoted in the overall planning. An important focus of the guidance is on traffic planning in cities and towns.

The strategy aims to reduce the emissions from the transport and energy sectors to air, reduce noise and other environmental impacts, and increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. The strategy describes what instruments are needed to achieve the environmental quality goals by 2020, as well as synergy effects and conflict of objectives between different goals, measures and instruments. The strategy also proposes a variety of instruments.

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