Shaping the transformation to climate-friendly, sustainable and inclusive mobility
People and objects are in motion – moving greater distances and more quickly than ever before. This impacts economic systems, the demands on policy-makers, the lives of each and every one of us, and the environment.
The transport sector is responsible for around 25 per cent of worldwide energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and transport-related emissions are continuing to grow. If nothing changes, transport-related emissions will double by 2050.
To achieve the Paris Agreement targets and limit global warming to well below 2°C, the transport sector must more than halve its emissions (from 8 Gt CO2-equivalent per year to 3 Gt CO2-equivalent per year by 2050).
Mobility already has a widespread impact on global sustainable development. In addition to environmental issues, social and economic aspects are crucial elements.
The transport sector is in transition worldwide. To understand more specifically what the future of mobility could look like, it’s a good idea to change perspectives.
Transforming transport – discover the topic from different perspectives
Transport and mobility must change. To transform transport, we must understand and reconcile the different interests of actors in order to shape solutions together. Get to know the perspectives.
Choose a perspective and then switch between the different texts.
How do people move in different parts of the world – both to get to work and in their free time?
Some 45 per cent of the world’s population live in rural areas. Housing costs and the cost of living are much more affordable here.
In many cases, much more living space is available. But when it comes to shopping, school and university attendance and work, many people have to go to the city. Most workers commute from home to work.
- In the United Arab Emirates, workers have an especially long commute, travelling more than 1.5 hours on average every day.
- In Japan, commutes are very quick, at only 39 minutes on average.
In many places the local public transport system is rudimentary at best. Many rural dwellers, particularly those living in Western countries, therefore have a car. Having your own car also makes you independent and able to move quickly. Today, an average of one in six people own their own car.
Asia has the most cars, but of course that is where 60 per cent of the world’s population live. In Asia there are 85 cars per 1,000 people, yet in Europe there are almost 600.
Mobility is changing, especially in emerging economies, and passenger car use could double by 2050.
However, many people still use local public transport to get to work. Worldwide, the most popular modes of public transport are the bus (63 per cent), the underground (32 per cent) and the tram (5 per cent).
In many emerging economies, bus rapid transit (BRT) systems are in use, transporting over 30 million passengers daily. Latin America is the region with the greatest number of daily BRT passengers: 20.5 million.
In Africa, local public transport is provided nearly exclusively by minibuses and (share) taxis.
How are the mobility needs of urban dwellers changing?
Today, more than half of the world’s population live in cities, and this figure is increasing.
By 2050, the number of people living in urban areas is likely to double. Most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated in urban agglomerations, as a result of high energy consumption, the use of buildings and road traffic. Consequently, urban mobility has a key part to play in combating climate change.
Improved mobility concepts are changing inner cities. Modern urban planning focuses on pedestrians and cyclists. In pedestrian-friendly cities, air pollution is lower and traffic safety is higher.
Worldwide, cities and municipalities are investing in infrastructure to ensure the safety of cyclists.
- Copenhagen in Denmark is a bicycle paradise and a model for other cities. Here, 45 per cent of the residents commute to work by bicycle.
- Bogotá, Colombia, is also encouraging the use of bicycles to mitigate the daily traffic chaos. On Sundays and public holidays, 120 kilometres of the road network are closed to motorised vehicles between 7:30 and 14:00. During these times, up to 2 million people frequent the downtown area.
Shared mobility is also gaining in popularity. In many cities, cars, electric scooters and bicycles are all available through sharing schemes.
The world’s leading cities in car-sharing schemes are Tokyo (19,800 cars), Moscow (16,500 cars) and Beijing (15,400 cars).
By 2021, over 20 million bicycles could be available worldwide in bike-sharing schemes.
What can I do as a citizen to contribute to transforming transport?
There are many way citizens can contribute to climate-friendly transport. For instance when on holiday.
The number of tourists worldwide is increasing, which is impacting the environment. Sustainable solutions are in demand. In 2018, a total of 1.4 billion people travelled abroad as tourists. While renewable energy plays only a negligible role in the travel sector at present, the share is increasing.
Some parts of the world have only sparse railway networks, so many people travel by bus, as in South America, for example. The number of users is continuously rising, and will soon reach an annual figure of 40 million. Be this as it may, 2019 saw 47 million flights offered worldwide. The number of air kilometres doubled in a 10-year period. The CO2 emissions from international aviation amounted to 918 million tonnes in 2018. While these figures include air freight traffic and business trips, tourist travel also contributes to emissions. Flying is the most damaging way to travel, as far as the climate is concerned. This means that you should always carefully consider whether you could also reach your destination by rail or by coach.
No matter what type of holiday you prefer, whether you like to relax, soak up culture or experience adventure, it is important to ask yourself how far you actually have to travel to reach your goal. In most cases, destinations in your local region can offer what you are looking for in a holiday just as well as long-distance destinations. In 2018, four out of five European tourists holidayed in their local region. Moreover, you can often reach destinations in your local region without flying. While cars are the cheapest mode of transport for reaching closer travel destinations, non-electric-powered models also emit 150 grams of CO₂ per capita and kilometre. The most environmentally compatible type of holiday transport within Europe, for instance, is by coach, closely followed by rail travel.
What factors does the mobility of tomorrow have to take into account?
Digitalisation, urbanisation, climate action and population development: these big trends are influencing the way we are shaping the mobility of the future.
The needs of people living in cities, the suburbs and rural areas differ, as do those of younger and older people. Different mobility concepts call for appropriate infrastructures. Women and men also have different mobility needs.
For instance, on the way home from work, you might want to pop into the supermarket to make a quick purchase and then drop off your child for swimming lessons. At the weekend, you might cross to the other side of the city with your children and a couple of bags to visit the zoo, picking up something at the bakery on the way. In the evening, you might wish to call a taxi because you don’t feel like taking a bus to get home. These and other situations are typical of what experts refer to as ‘female mobility’. The mobility patterns of men and women differ.
Previously, mobility systems were usually considered in terms of technology. For instance, many road and local public transport systems are built in a star-shaped layout for the daily commute between people’s workplace in the city and their home in the suburbs. People who have other commitments outside their work have more complex mobility requirements. In many places in the world, women perform most of the child and elder care. Women choose their mode of transport depending on the activity (multimodal) or switch modes as needed (intermodal). As they travel, they are often accompanied by family members who require support (children and seniors) and have luggage with them.
Women comprise the majority of local public transport users (66 per cent) and do a great deal of travel on foot.
Changes in mobility implemented to protect the climate or resulting from technological developments such as digitalisation must take much more account of these individual needs.
Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for guidance, transport can become more climate-friendly as well as more socially just and can contribute to development in many places.
What role does politics play in transforming transport across the globe?
The international community has adopted national goals as a commitment to contributing to climate action.
Efforts so far have particularly focused on the energy transition. The next step is now to transform transport. To date, just a few countries – 8 per cent – have set specific goals for reducing transport-related greenhouse gases as part of the Paris Agreement targets.
However, more and more countries are committing to reducing transport-related emissions in the context of other frameworks:
Mexico, for example, aims to completely decarbonise its transport sector by 2030, China plans to increase the share of electric cars in the total number of cars sold to 40 per cent by 2025, while India anticipates that in 2030, 30 per cent of all cars in India will be electric.
Cities also play an important role in transforming transport. In some regions of the world, improved access to mobility is still an important goal, too. This is particularly true of people living in rural areas. Some governments, such as those of China, India and countries in Africa, are investing in solutions to prevent rural areas from being bypassed and connect them to transport networks.
Does politics need to be involved in transforming transport?
Policy-making has a central role to play in transforming transport.
For example, policy-makers can set CO2 standards for vehicles and fuels or impose different methods of parking management to create the framework for a climate-neutral transport system. They can offer incentives to buy electric vehicles and, at the same time, gear investments towards building the necessary infrastructure, such as larger numbers of charging stations for electric vehicles.
As part of the COVID-19 economic stimulus package, Germany and many other countries are linking financial aid with green investment, including in the transport sector. For example, EUR 9 billion is being channelled into support for the hydrogen industry for applications such as aircraft engines or heavy goods vehicles.
Transforming transport requires coordination, because it affects different areas of work and life. The activities of political actors at various state levels, from Europe to local communities, must complement each other. The same applies to different sectoral policy areas; they too must be coordinated to ensure that the transport sector will be successfully transformed.
Do policy-makers take account of the needs of different stakeholders when shaping the transformation of transport?
Mobility and environmental protection are important for each and every one of us.
Since changes in the transport sector often directly impact us on a daily basis and influence many areas of our lives, as many stakeholders as possible are included in important political decisions.
The EU, for example, takes all fundamental decisions unanimously. The EU legislative process is complex, and for good reason. The EU intends to achieve ambitious climate goals. In its efforts, it stipulates the inclusion of as many justified concerns and issues as possible in order to create broad acceptance of laws. For this reason, a number of stakeholders are involved in this process:
- Politicians: from the European Parliament and the governments of the EU Member States.
- Representatives of business and industry: they are often members of national or international associations.
- EU citizens: they participate via associations or NGOs, etc.
By including them, the EU is ensuring a fair balance of interests. For legislation that treats all citizens in Europe fairly.
Are different nations able to transform transport on their own?
Transforming transport is only possible if there is international cooperation.
After all, transport does not stop at borders. Freight traffic, business travel and tourist trips, for instance, take place across national borders. Greenhouse gases also affect the climate beyond national borders. That’s why it’s important for politicians to agree on common standards and goals.
Widespread digitalisation of the transport sector and electricity-based drive technologies will not be possible until imports of certain raw materials (lithium, cobalt) or climate-neutral, electricity-based fuels have increased exponentially. In principle, the market is responsible for balancing supply and demand. To avoid shortages or monopoly structures, international cooperation arrangements are very important, especially in the initial phase of new transport technologies.
When oil dependency declines owing to increased use of electromobility or other electricity-based fuels, this also impacts global power relationships. Governments and parliaments can deal with these changes and prevent conflicts by engaging in joint international dialogue.
What is the significance of the transport sector for the global economy?
The mobility sector plays a crucial part in the global economy.
The automotive and components industry is one of the most important industries in the mobility sector. The global automotive industry value chain in its entirety generated revenue totalling around EUR 5 trillion in 2018.
Other key industries in this sector include train and railway system manufacturers and the aviation and shipping industry as a whole.
The mobility sector is essential for other economic sectors as well, for example for delivering products. The global economy would not work without freight transport. Trade and goods traffic are growing worldwide. The absence of railway networks and shipping routes in many regions is causing road transport to increase. In 2010, the amount of freight carried by international road transport amounted to some 6,388 trillion tonne-kilometres. This figure is predicted to rise to nearly 31,000 trillion tonne-kilometres in 2050.
All of these sectors are facing the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and paying attention to climate action and protecting the environment across all levels.
How is the transport sector changing?
New actors are changing the mobility sector, above all in cities. For several years now, a number of new actors have been emerging in the urban landscape.
They include mobility service providers for services such as car-sharing, bike-sharing or ride-sharing. Among these are businesses providing charging infrastructure for e-mobility and traffic management systems for connected vehicles, as well as digital platforms that offer services related to all aspects of mobility, such as Uber or Clever Shuttle.
A car is still an element of everyday life in many countries. However, the automotive industry is facing a number of major challenges. Companies in the automotive sector have to maintain progress with technical development of their products in order to survive on the market. The changeover from internal combustion engines to electric motors in private vehicles is an important factor.
However, having clean drive systems is not the whole story. Vehicles and components also need to become more digitalised in order to be equipped for the future trend of self-driving vehicles, for example.
Won’t the change to electromobility create huge job losses?
While the changeover to producing electric cars will change the way people work in the automotive industry, it will have little impact on the amount of labour required.
In principle, an electric car is simpler to build and thus initially requires less labour. A combustion engine has around 1,400 components, while an electric motor requires only around 200. But the reduction in labour applies only to the motor. Building a complete electric car requires nearly the same amount of labour as a car with a combustion engine.
That said, many operations in manufacturing but also in work planning, logistics, production plant maintenance and other indirect production areas can now be automated, eliminating work for employees. This means that, in general, fewer and fewer people are required, no matter how a particular vehicle is powered.
Yet the shift to alternative propulsion systems may even mitigate this process. Some automotive manufacturers have production lines building cars with combustion engines, hybrid drives and electric motors all on the same line. This extended range of variants makes automation more difficult and costly.
At the same time, electric cars are also creating new jobs. According to estimates, in Germany there will be 255,000 new jobs in the automotive sector by 2030. For example, charging stations need to be built, maintained and monitored. The job profiles are changing, however. In addition to car mechanics, electricians and electrical engineers, there is increasing demand for IT and service staff.
What will the mobility market of the future look like?
The mobility sector is also seeing new business sectors emerge that are revolutionising the market.
Existing business sectors such as local public transport are becoming even more significant.
Shared and autonomous mobility – the mobility of tomorrow?
The market for shared mobility and autonomous driving is growing. There is huge market potential for autonomous driving services. Autonomous driving can play a part in protecting the environment and the climate if the vehicles are shared.
Because one thing is certain: in order for the transport system of the future to be climate-friendly, we have to reduce our dependence on gasoline-powered cars. In the best cases, countries where cars have not featured prominently to date can skip this stage of development and convert their transport system to a climate-friendly form even more quickly than other countries.
In future, in addition to electromobility, particular emphasis will be placed on a more comprehensive, more inclusive local public transport system, active forms of mobility such as cycling or running and shared mobility.
How does science contribute to transforming transport?
To achieve climate-friendly mobility, scientists at universities are conducting research on innovative technologies and mobility concepts and are working to better understand mobility behaviour.
How can science support more climate-friendly mobility?
With innovations that considerably reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector, such as using alternative synthetic fuels. With smart concepts for IT-assisted logistics, to avoid empty runs. With optimised shared mobility models that connect local public transport, car-sharing and bike-sharing to make them even more sustainable and based on need.
Scientists at universities and research institutions are developing sustainable transport strategies and innovative technical solutions in cooperation with companies.
How do we develop sustainable mobility strategies that work in practice?
When researchers from different disciplines collaborate: technology, infrastructure and the environment, as well as social sciences.
When users are included – so that their requirements and ideas from practical experience can be taken into account.
Hydrogen propulsion for ships: will science advance a green future on the high seas?
Some 90 per cent of worldwide freight is transported by ship, and the sector is still expanding.
Hydrogen fuel cells provide an opportunity for worldwide shipping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, be it cargo, passenger or container ships.
When hydrogen from renewable sources is used as a fuel, operation of the fuel cells can be almost emission-free. The ships then emit only steam. However, at present, the power level is still too low to drive ships and it is too expensive. Compared to using conventional heavy fuel oil, a fuel cell is around 100 times more costly.
Refining the technology and expanding a competitive market for fuel cells is thus very important. In Europe, many of these research projects are supported by the European Union. Researchers are working together in the following transnational projects:
- The HySeas III project: the world’s first sea-going vehicle and passenger ferry that will be fuelled by a hydrogen fuel cell. The aim is to enable the ferry service between Kirkwall and Shapinsay, in the Orkney Islands, located to the north of Scotland, to be run with a ship powered entirely by energy from renewable sources from 2021.
- The RH2INE project: hydrogen-powered ships on inland waterways between Rotterdam and Genoa. Ships are expected to start travelling the most important trade routes in 2024. There are plans in place to build the hydrogen-refuelling infrastructure to enable this to happen.
What ideas is science providing for optimised local public transport in rural areas?
In rural areas, getting from point A to point B can present quite a challenge. Self-driving buses could help change this.
Users could use an app to book a self-driving bus on demand, at any time. Local public transport for rural communities could be run much more cheaply thanks to lower staffing costs. If the system works, more people will switch from cars to buses. A bus would hold up to eight passengers. The self-driving buses would also offer benefits for the environment and the climate.
Researchers worldwide are working to make autonomous vehicles safer. They are investigating various guidance systems, including LIDAR, GPS and IMS.
You can learn more about them in the exhibition.
What questions must science provide answers for in future?
Technical challenges are not the only conundrum associated with innovative technologies.
New technologies always have to be tested from an ethical perspective, too. Will the use of the technology exacerbate inequality? Also, on what basis does the technology in a self-driving vehicle take decisions in a dangerous situation?
People relinquish control when they ride in smart vehicles. The vehicle must be programmed so that protecting human life is accorded highest priority. The ethical requirements for self-driving vehicles are high. They must protect human life in a value-neutral way. Personal characteristics such as age or gender must not be used as criteria. Self-driving vehicles must be proven to cause fewer accidents than human drivers. Their programming must allow for defensive driving, which identifies weaker traffic participants and prevents hazardous situations.
In Germany, specialists and scientists have prepared the first set of ethical guidelines for self-driving cars. The legal framework must also be clearly regulated. The automotive industry is calling for a uniform legal framework worldwide rather than different sets of national regulations.
In these matters the research community can advise policy-makers, who ultimately are the only actors mandated to determine the legal framework.
How can we transform the transport sector to make it climate-neutral without compromising on mobility?
Not only do we travel a lot ourselves, whether for work, holiday or shopping, but many everyday objects travel long distances too, including food, clothing, electronics components and many other things.
Some 72 per cent of worldwide transport-related emissions are generated by road vehicles, such as passenger cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles. But air and maritime traffic are also causing more and more emissions. The only decrease in emissions is observed for rail traffic, as a significant share of rail transport is powered by electricity.
Many of those involved are already showing how it can be done, and solutions exist. They share a common goal: transforming mobility, which means more efficient and therefore lower energy consumption without restricting mobility, combined with an energy transition in the transport sector, in other words switching to emission-free propulsion technologies such as electromobility.
‘To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the EU must take action in all sectors.’
(Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission)
Would you like to learn more about the energy transition – around the world and in your local community?
Click through the articles, studies and video clips in the online library.