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Low carbon passenger transport – keeping it simple

peta wolpe Peta Wolpe of Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) challenged me some years ago in her characteristically incisive and insightful way on a presentation conclusion that: “reducing energy use in the urban transport sector is difficult and…complex.” The presentation was all well and good, she argued, but where does it leave us? What should SEA advise government to do in a very practical sense?

This week I’m back with SEA at a similar presentation event and Peta’s question is still haunting me. So this time I’m keeping the conclusions simple. My prescription for lowering carbon emissions from the passenger sector is a seven part manifesto for change:

focus policy attention on affluent lifestyles

increase vehicle occupancies through pricing

allocate public road space to public transport

attend seriously to the safety of “own steam” transport (walking and cycling mainly)

increase urban densities in targeted areas

challenge car culture as inevitable

support civil society movements in these areas

This is a knotty problem. You will notice that  “investing in public transport” isn’t on the list. That’s because I’m not yet convinced that investing in public transport without other conditions serves the lowering carbon agenda cost effectively. Public transport investment will serve other agendas…improving quality, providing access and choice…but  is it the best way to reduce carbon?

In the next weeks I’m going to expand on these one by one.

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