Cities and countries around the globe are vowing to cut carbon emissions from transportation by all possible means, from electric cars and buses to flying taxis and hyperloop.
Martin Frick, senior director of policy with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told attendees of the Movin’ On conference in Montreal last month that after two decades of shaping the Paris Agreement, the legal instrument under which countries are addressing climate change, “we are just beginning to implement the goals. We need new innovations and solutions.”
Referring to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, Bob Bennett, Kansas City, Mo.’s chief innovation officer, said that “regardless of the behavior of our national leadership,” cities around the country are doubling down on efforts to become more connected and “smart.” Kansas City has a goal to reduce carbon emission by 70% by 2020 through various efforts, such as smart streetlights, public Wi-Fi and a 1.5-mile test road for automated vehicles.
At the Movin’ On mobility conference, the sponsor, Michelin, announced that by 2048, all of its tires will be manufactured using 80% sustainable materials, and 100% of all its tires will be recycled. That could equal 33 million fewer oil barrels a year, according to the company.
The emphasis on more sustainable mobility is changing the way many transportation firms do business. Siemens, traditionally a provider of mass transit infrastructure, “is not the same company as when I joined it in 2001,” said Marcus Welz, intelligent traffic systems lead for the company’s U.S. operation. He noted that the company is operating a pilot project on connected vehicles and infrastructure in Tampa, Fla., and an advanced traffic management system in Seattle that has reduced average trips from 35 minutes to 20 minutes on the test stretch.
But governments must lead the way, rather than expect technology to be a silver bullet, said speakers. For example, Marie-Christine Lombard, chairperson of the supply chain operator Geodis, suggested that Paris might establish penalties for vehicle companies that don’t commit to sustainability. “It would not be very popular, but [otherwise] you are creating differences between competitors,” she said. “There are higher costs for doing the right thing.”