It is no secret that the global population is growing exponentially. At present, there are over 7 billion people on the planet; by 2050, that number will have grown to 9 billion. All those people not only need food and shelter, but also mobility. How can we organise these huge transportation flows in a sustainable way?
The year 2009 will be remembered as a tipping point: for the first time in history, more people lived in cities than in rural areas. In their report Expect the unexpected, KPMG specifically mentioned this particular demographic development: ‘By 2030, in all developing regions, including Asia and Africa, the majority of the population will live in cities.’
To lead this exponential growth in the right direction, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) wrote their Vision 2050. In this ambitious vision of the future, the way to a self-sustaining planet is outlined. Transport plays an important role and the WBCSD has stressed the importance of 'universal access to safe and low-impact mobility’.
This is no luxury, because the global automobile fleet is growing at a rapid pace. In 2012, 63 million new cars were produced; in 1998 this was less than 40 million. Needless to say this alone creates a huge environmental burden, not to mention the growth of other means of transport (air, water, rail). All transport together account for 20-25% of the global energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. No other sector increases greenhouse gas emissions as fast as the transport sector.
The key to sustainable transport is technology. After a difficult start, the electric car is finally becoming a reality. Additionally, there are plenty more or less realistic plans to make transport more sustainable, such as using maglev trains. However to date, these are mainly local or national initiatives. They are noble, but not powerful enough to structurally get sustainable transport of the ground. International cooperation is needed. There are also initiatives on this front, but with limited effectiveness. At the European Transport Forum 2014, the question was even raised whether there 'is a need for a European approach’. If we are still wondering about that, an effective strategy is also far away. It is time for a strong political lobby to kick in!
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