Urban Mobility and Climate Change: Time to Act

D. Dionisio González, Director, International Union of Public Transport

On the occasion of COP 25 in Spain, we read and hear these days that it is "Time to Act". And not only to review the progress made since Paris or Katowice, but even to increase global ambition in the fight against climate change. The public transport sector has been clear about this for a long time and is ready to continue leading the necessary decarbonisation towards 2050. Yes, it is possible, if we are capable of defining, at a global level but with the help of the cities, the key players, a consistent, planned roadmap with the necessary governance and resources. In line with what the International Association of Public Transport proposes in its ONEPLANet campaign (http://oneplanet.uitp.org), sustainable urban mobility, based on public transport as the backbone, must be the protagonist of the Climate Plans of the 196 countries participating in COP 25. The results of those that have already done so are there, they are objective and undeniable from an environmental, but also economic and social point of view. For this, it is critical:

  • Prioritise people-centred street design to improve air quality through appropriate urban planning. Walking and cycling should be the first mobility options in a city, based on an integrated public transport system. Active modes are not only good for public health, they are also emission-free.
  • Reinforce the role of public transport as the backbone of all mobility services, combined with demand-responsive and shared modes. This redefinition of public transport is necessary to provide door-to-door travel, which reduces the need to use the car.
  • Ensure financial incentives and an appropriate regulatory framework to facilitate the energy transition. Governments should provide incentive schemes to the urban mobility sector to invest in clean vehicles and technologies that reduce emissions.
  • Ensure access to and use of clean energy sources to further reduce the carbon footprint. Public transport is already a low-emission sector, yet it continues to innovate to reduce its carbon footprint.

In short, it is, as Gonzalo Muñoz, COP 25 High-Level Champion, said during the thematic sessions on transport a few days ago in Madrid, about stopping moving air, i.e. shifting the focus from vehicles and technologies to people and cities.
The signs of hope are multiplying. Public opinion is awakening in all parts of the world. Young people, our future, are showing remarkable enthusiasm and unprecedented mobilisation. But we need political will and leadership.

In 2015, only 36% of countries included public transport projects and measures in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In the new targets that each country will set in 2020, all governments must include investments in public transport infrastructure and services as pillars of their health and climate change strategy.

The public transport sector is committed to leading global climate action. With the right support, eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 can be achieved in a cost-effective way - count on us! We have a Planet and we have a

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