When we talk about urban mobility, it is necessary to mention two great challenges. On the one hand the decarbonization of mobility and on the other hand the servitization of the means of transport.
The decarbonization of transport is a fact that will happen sooner than we think and later than it should. The reasons are various, but climate change, peak oil and environmental pollution in cities, both atmospheric and acoustic, stand out.
The effects of Climate Change will be irreversible from 2030 according to the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) on the United Nations Climate Change. The IPCC encompasses independent scientists from around the world who agree after disparate scientific studies that climate change is a reality and will soon be a worrying reality. The transport industry is one of the most faithful contributors to such a disaster of global dimensions. According to the European Environment Agency, around 21% of total greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport sector ( EEA, 2008). This without accounting for emissions from maritime transport and aviation. Then it is easy to conclude that the contribution to climate change by road transport is considerable.
If the urgency is not given to us by the protection of the environment, nor by the health of other populations that already suffer the consequences or of other generations that will surely suffer them, what motivates a drastic and necessary change in mobility models let it be our own well-being. The necessary combustion of oil to move our vehicles not only contributes to climate change, it also contributes to the pollution of the spaces where we live. According to the WHO, 7 million people die each year due to air pollution. air pollution, 1/8 of annual deaths. The mobility model we have contributes to this in large part, along with polluting industries and the city buildings .
And if the health of the environment and people is not motivating enough, the very scarcity of fossil fuels will be what stops the use of these fuels. It is estimated that peaks for oil, gas and coal, if they haven’t been surpassed on a global scale, soon will be. This will imply a more expensive extraction, since it will be more scarce and inaccessible. Therefore, the ordinary citizen will be excluded, for economic reasons, from access to the consumption of said fuels.
But decarbonising transport will not be enough. The electric car is not the solution to the problem, nor is it something innovative. What is truly innovative is a new sustainable, intermodal and multimodal mobility model, capable of covering the needs of the entire population with the least environmental impact. The cost to the environment (both due to demand for materials and energy) when it comes to electrifying the entire world mobile fleet would be unaffordable.
That is why owning the means of transport should lose importance. There will be various means of transportation for various mobility needs. The current private car is the most inefficient and polluting of all media and its days are numbered. The servitization of transport implies a change of mentality, we will go from buying the means of transport to buying the transport service, as is already done with public transport. In this way, for each type of displacement that we require, we will use the most efficient means that allows us to pay less, for traveling in less time and generating the least possible environmental impact. And all this considering the characteristics of each displacement, that is, the number and characteristics of the people and objects to be displaced, the distance to be traveled and the environment where the displacement will take place.
Aitor Mingo Bilbao
MSc in Cities and Sustainability