Transport is the world’s fastest growing source of energy-related CO2 emissions. It was dropped 23% of energy-related GHG emissions in 2010City traffic was the largest single source. Depending on where you live, transportation also helps somewhere between 12-70% of urban pollution, while at least 184,000 deaths in 2010 could be specifically due to vehicle air pollution. Long commuting also affects productivity and leisure time India’s average daily commute of 1.5 hours, This entails economic costs – traffic jams, air pollution, accidents and noise costs in Beijing 7.5% -15% of GDP,
Due to these profound effects on sustainability, health, economy and quality of life, improving urban traffic can solve many problems at the same time. Shifting a city’s dominant mode of transportation from private cars to local transportation can prevent urban sprawl and promote life density, which will impact soil values and carbon footprint in the coming decades. Being able to move efficiently and inexpensively enables justice and upward mobility by creating access to jobs and education. The switch to electric mobility can improve energy independence by reducing the dependence on imported fossil fuels.
Aside from these environmental and social benefits, sustainable cities are a wise investment. Analysis by Vivid Economics and Stockholm Environmental Institute for the Coalition for Urban ChangeLast report Climate emergency, urban opportunity found that a bundle of 16 low-carbon investments and measures in cities in the transportation, building, materials and waste sectors could reduce global urban emissions by 90% by 2050 and have a current value of nearly $ 24 trillion, which Global GDP corresponds to almost a third of the total in 2018.
In particular, investments and measures in the area of low-carbon passenger transport generated returns that were miles ahead of other sectors such as buildings, material efficiency and waste. Three of them achieved particularly high returns: using more efficient and electric vehicles, switching to local transport and reducing the demand for motorized travel.
Moving to a more efficient fleet of electric vehicles in cities worldwide would require an additional total investment of $ 8.6 trillion – including additional costs for owning, operating, and fueling electric vehicles and vehicles with higher fuel efficiency. This investment would pay for itself in eight years. It will generate $ 320 billion by 2030 and more than $ 1 trillion by 2050, which equates to a net present value of $ 3.7 trillion. Most of these returns are direct savings from lower fuel consumption and fuel costs, without taking into account the economic benefits of lower emissions and cleaner air, which would result in even higher economic returns. This investment could also secure 3.6 million jobs by 2030 and avoid 0.71 GtCO2-e by 2050 (and much more if clean electricity is used). In 2018, Shenzhen, China became the first city in the world to electrify the entire public bus fleet. With its 16,000 electric buses, annual CO2 emissions were reduced by 440,000 tons and fuel costs were cut in half.
While vehicle electrification and efficiency can reduce traffic emissions, they won’t solve the traffic jams – they will only electrify them. These investments and measures must go hand in hand with a shift from urban transport to urban transport, which also offers greater economic returns. A total investment of $ 4 trillion in public buses, trains, and railroad tracks would bring an annual benefit of $ 1 trillion with a net present value of $ 19.6 trillion by 2030 – the largest investment ever modeled. It would pay for itself in just a year, with significant returns from vehicle ownership savings, savings in operating and fuel costs from reduced vehicle consumption, and savings in travel time and traffic jams. The shift to local transport could cut CO2 emissions by 0.73 GtCO2-e by 2050 and create almost 12 million jobs by 2050. 37% of trips in the city are based on the TransMilenio bus local transport system and other public transport from Bogotá time, pollutants and emissions from a car-based network.
The reduction in demand for motorized travel through more compact urban planning and the promotion of non-motorized traffic provides the second largest present value of all modeled investments in low-carbon cities: USD 10.25 trillion. With an additional total investment of $ 0.58 trillion (to provide e-cycles and bicycle infrastructure), CO2 emissions could be reduced by 0.56 GtCO2-e by 2050. By 2030, the annual return would be $ 513 billion, which would increase to $ 1.7 trillion by 2050. Payback in just one year. Similar to shifting traffic to local public transport, these returns would be achieved through significant savings in vehicle ownership, operating and fuel costs, and savings in travel time and traffic congestion. This could also bring health benefits: Copenhagen’s cyclists claim 1.1 million fewer sick days than residents who do not ride a bike and $ 1.16 per kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car receive.
These three urban transport investments and measures – more efficient electric vehicles, switching to local transport and reducing motorized transport demand – are closely related. For example, if the demand for motor vehicle travel is reduced, a city could operate with fewer vehicles, which could reduce the overall investment needs for vehicle electrification and funding for other much-needed public services. Taken together, investments in low-carbon transportation in cities by 2050 could result in economic returns of over $ 33 trillion, cut CO2 emissions by 3.29 GtCO2-e by 2050, and save hundreds of thousands of lives each year as cities become more comfortable and liveable. Together, this makes sustainable urban transportation a great investment.
Leah Lazer is a research analyst for the Coalition for Urban Transitions.
Naina Khandelwal is an economist at Vivid Economics.
Jake Wellman is Senior Economist at Vivid Economics.
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