We have been discussing mobility a lot this year. Between the airline crisis and the rise of sustainable urban mobility, our whole world has adapted to new modes of transport with unprecedented speed and, surprisingly, ease. For decades, research and innovation have been focusing on how to take us from one place to another faster and more efficiently, but the social and economic scenarios that open before us now demand that we shift our priorities. An increasing number of companies, organisations, and even governments are now acknowledging the need to invest in sustainable transport, to reduce CO2 emissions. Major online events are also being organised to discuss the future of sustainable mobility, such as GECO, an international online trade show taking place in January of 2021, which will gather innovators and companies operating in multiple industries. On the other hand, the pandemic has also prompted a surge in small electric vehicles as safer alternatives to public transport. Nowadays, the focus is increasingly on tackling both issues at the same time, designing sustainable transport that can be used safely while ensuring social distancing.
Rethinking urban mobility and international transport
The way we move people and goods has several, complex, and long-lasting consequences. Fossil fuel is responsible for a large part of the CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming. The research on sustainable transport, therefore, has been focusing primarily on alternative energy sources, to make electric vehicles sustainable, efficient, and affordable enough for us to be able to phase out internal combustion vehicles entirely. This, of course, is proving easier for urban transport – since flying is still the most efficient way for humans to cover long distances, particularly across multiple continents. Several local initiatives have been implemented – such as a recent ruling stating that all new trucks and vans in California need to be electric – but the issue of the sustainability of long-haul travel is still very much on the table. Our urban mobility landscape, meanwhile, has been changing rapidly and dramatically, with hundreds of micro-mobility apps allowing users to share electric scooters, segways, mopeds, and cars.
Promoting sustainable transport: what we can do individually, what we should do as a community
The collective awareness of climate change has been increasing steadily for years, influencing individual choices as well as government and corporate policies. While we all make environmentally-responsible choices (partly) to feel better about ourselves, it is important to understand that this issue is much larger than our decision to cycle to work regularly. Of course, the collective adoption of sustainable transport for private use will make a difference, but it is not going to be enough. And, besides, it can only happen if the infrastructures are put into place by local and national governments. A larger impact can result from companies choosing to invest in sustainable transport. Deciding to adopt sustainable options for company travel and to reduce the need for employees to travel at all whenever possible (for instance, by allowing more of them to work from home) can have a significant impact on CO2 emission, particularly if these policies become widespread. It is also likely that, in the near future, more financial incentives will be offered by the government to encourage sustainable transport at a corporate level, which will finally make sustainability not only the right choice but the most convenient one.