‘Hyperlocal neighbourhoods’ can promote sustainable travel, help decarbonise transport sector: Report

Trip avoidance research is the need of the hour, finds study
‘Hyperlocal neighbourhoods’ can promote sustainable travel, help decarbonise transport sector: Report

Hyper-local neighbourhoods that provide every necessary service within a walking distance can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the transport sector, according to a new report by Imperial College, London. 

Such neighbourhoods will help people avoid using transport for their daily needs, it added. Every trip that is avoided immediately decreases GHG release, the research showed. 

Focus on trip avoidance research as a subset of travel demand management is the need of the hour, according to the paper on smart and sustainable urban transport

Efficient and smart use of transport systems can help cities, especially those in developed countries, meet their Paris Agreement goals, the scientists associated with the study suggested. 

Lockdowns due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic forced a range of activities to shift online. Many of these changes can be recommended for permanent adoption by accelerating research on sustainable technology and other measures to make certain trips avoidable, the report observed. 

“We can build our neighbourhoods to contain everything we need within a short walk or cycle ride — interventions in the built environment can change how far we need to travel,” it added. 

The report explored what reaching net-zero carbon emissions in the transport sector would look like and the changes to be made.

Audrey de Nazelle, a researcher at the Imperial College, London and one of the authors, said:

The types of strategies that will have the greatest level of co-benefits and generate the greatest impacts are the types of policies that change our urban land use and transportation system to encourage walking, cycling and public transportation.

Shift to modes of transport that use renewable energy should be accompanied by policies to restrict growth in car and motorised two-wheeler travel, the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based non-profit, said. 

Some modes of transport — public transport and cycling — are highly energy efficient and the authors recommend that we can switch from less efficient modes of transport by using technology, policies, the environment and behavioural interventions.

Research is needed to determine how to design sustainable modes of transport that are comfortable, safe, convenient, economical and accessible, they suggested. “Ensuring that less sustainable modes are discouraged through incentive structures is also imperative.” 

Many countries have started banning new fossil fuel passenger vehicles and frequent flying levies are imposed with the aim of decarbonising the transport sector, the study observed. 

The lightest vehicle possible should be used in all trips to reduce overall energy usage, it showed.  “Reducing the average weight per passenger (or per tonne carried, in the case of cargo movements) in usage is a necessary component of reducing the energy demand for transport overall,” according to the report. 

The paper was launched in the week leading to the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held on October 31, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. 

The report was prepared by the Grantham Institute — Climate Change and the Environment as well as the Energy Futures Lab of  the Imperial College, London.

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