Category Archives: climate

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Biodiversity is down

biodiversity is down

One more reason

keeting curve -2

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Op-Ed: Where Does SLoCaT Stand in Realizing Sustainable Transport?

Three years ago the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport slocat logo(SLoCaT) was established to address the relative absence of sustainable transport in the global discussions on sustainable development and climate change. Rapid motorization in the developing world and its negative impacts motivated the organizations that came together in SLoCaT. There was agreement that SLoCaT should initially have a mandate for three years only and that by the end of 2012 a decision would be made whether to call it a day or to go on, possibly, with a revised mission. Those three years have gone by. So where is SLoCaT now and what is next; declare victory and move on, admit defeat and move on, or stay in the fight? Continue reading

Op-Ed: Do you know your ecological footprint?

Toward the end of each year, I take a few minutes to run my personal Ecological Footprint scan to see if I can get a handle on how I am doing relative to myself, to others and to the planet. Seems like the least I can do, not less because it does oblige me to think about my life pattern and choices in the greater scheme of things. “Walk the talk”, etc., etc. (PS. On a more global basis, to get a feel for where the high scores hang out, this map of earth lights at night will provide you with some good clues.) Continue reading

Climate of Denial: Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?

From the New York Times, 22 June 2011: “Former Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized President Obama as lacking leadership on climate changein a magazine essay published online Wednesday, saying his policies had been little more effective than those of President George W. Bush. In the 7,000-word article in Rolling Stone, Mr. Gore said . . . ” Continue reading

The World – the Climate – the Strategy. Come argue with me.

Part I: Ten steps to get the job done:
Let me sketch out an easy to understand (or reject) climate/transport foundation strategy that presents some stark contrasts with the ideas and approaches that are getting the bulk of attention when it comes to targeting, policy and investment in the sector — and which in a first instance is quite likely to earn me more enemies than friends (that goes with the territory). At least until such time that these basic underlying ideas are expressed in a manner which is sufficiently clear and convincing that we can with confidence put them to work to turn the tide. So here you have my first brief statement of the issues, the basic strategic frame and the key pressure points to which I invite your critical reactions and comments. In a second piece in this series, to follow shortly, I intend to have a look at the package(s) of measures, policies, tools, modes, etc. which can be sorted out, combined and refined to do something about it. Or maybe not.

- Eric Britton, Editor Continue reading

India Steers Full Speed towards Low Carbon Transport

We do not normally carry media releases on projects, programs, reports or books, but today we make an exception and are gladly posting the following important announcement. We share this both here, in India Streets and on the Sustran Global South forum for comment and discussion. It is our firm intention to keep an independent eye on this potentially promising program, and our firm hope that the money spent and technical resources brought to the job will result above all in multiplying the number of many and diverse on-street examples of how sustainable mobility works in the interest of the entire population — and not just the privileged (automotive and relatively affluent) few. As William Blake put it roughly two centuries ago: “He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars.” We pledge keep as eye on the minute particulars, in the hope that we are going to see examples of policies and practices not only for India but for the world. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010 Papers. Sharing/Strategy for a Small Planet. Part I

After many decades of a single dominant city-shaping transportation pattern – i.e., for those who could afford it: owning and driving our own cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles, getting into taxis by ourselves, riding in streets that are designed for cars and not much else — there is considerable evidence accumulating that we have already entered into a world of new mobility practices that are changing the transportation and city landscape in many ways. It has to do with sharing, as opposed to outright ownership. But strange to say, this trend seems to have escaped the attention of the policymakers in many of the institutions directly concerned. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010 Papers: Thoughts on Share/Transport from Chengdu, China

This essay has been contributed by one of the 2010 Jason Chang International Fellows, Jane Voodikon, who introduces herself as follows: “Since my interest in transportation and planning is purely personal – I have no professional background in any transportation-related field – I hope to walk away from Kaohsiung 2010 with a more informed picture of transportation possibilities and the goals and objectives related sectors should be working toward.” – Jane Voodikon, Concerned person and editor. Los Angeles and Chengdu, China. Continue reading

World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 16, No. 2

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long standing idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda. The summer 2010 edition appears today, and in the article that follows you will find the lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg, along with abstracts of the principal contributions. (For a more complete introduction to WTPP click here.) Continue reading

“Time to count the spoons”. Alan Atkinson on sustainabilety back-peddling

Dr. Samuel Johnson reminded us some time back that “When a man proclaims his honor loudly at the table, it’s time to count the spoons”. Which is what Alan AtKisson has to offer on the subject of back-peddling as he comments on loudly proclaimed sustainability initiatives from Europe and America. Continue reading

Transport and the lock-in problem

Politicians are reluctant to confront the economic and environmental costs of transport. The task: to reduce the demand for mobility. I probably don’t write about transport as much as I ought to, and that was brought home to me at an event on The Future of Transport in Leuven in Belgium, at which I was also a speaker. There’s a case for regarding transport as a climate emergency, given that it accounts for about a quarter of Europe’s carbon emissions, and that in the last decade (unlike pretty much every other sector) emissions from transport have continued to grow sharply. And before I continue, even if you’re a climate sceptic, this represents a significant policy issue: the transport sector (at least, the non-human powered transport sector) is 97% dependent on fossil fuels. As these become scarcer, more expensive, and more prone to interruption, we will have an incipient social and economic problem which is serious enough to prod policy makers.  … Read More

via thenextwave

Dancing around the carbon tax in the United States Senate

Climate and climate policy are more than moderately complicated issues, as we all are well aware. But at the end of the day we know too there are a certain number of basic underlying truths that shape these issues and outcomes, which one either grasps or one does not. And in this regard, there can be little doubt that the most single powerful single lever available for slowing down climate damage is carbon-reduction — and by far the most powerful way to achieve this is through a well-fashioned carbon tax. You put a price on carbon emissions, a high price preferably, and you can be sure that they will come down. Economics 101. But say this to a hundred bright people, and 99 will immediately, without losing a beat, look you in the eye and start to list all the reasons why this cannot be done. Wrong! It can be done. Continue reading

World Carfree Day: Interview with Eric Britton

September 22 is an important date to remember – it’s World Carfree Day (WCD). Celebrated in towns and cities all over the world, it’s a day when streets are closed to cars and open for pedestrians, pedalers, parties and pleasure. Eric Britton, a sustainability activist, international adviser and consultant on sustainable transportation, is recognised for his work promoting and propelling WCD to  international attention. Much of his work involves co-ordinating the collaborative New Mobility Agenda and World Streets online journal, which encompass a number of possible transport solutions, including public transport, bike sharing and shared space projects. In an interview with Carbusters, Eric shared his thoughts about the problems, popularity and prospects for WCD, and points out the importance of bringing it into the policy agenda of governments in order to improve urban transport sustainability.

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Brazilians observe how Germans are creating Low Emission Zones in cities

When it comes to the performance and quality of our streets in cities around the world, the simple truth is that for now at least we are stuck with far more losers than winners. But that is only part of the story; and one of the tasks of World is to keep a weather eye out for projects and programs, tools and policies which open up the possibility of creating better streets and better cities. Here for example you have a conversation between a Brazilian environmentalist and a German scientist running a pioneering program for a low emissions zone which is up and running in Berlin.
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The End of Climate? Hello Professor Krugman.

Engaging the battle to mitigate climate change is one of the fundamental driving principles behind World Streets, since we have taken it as our main metric for remedial action in the transport sector, which as you all know accounts for something like 20% +/-5% of all GHG emissions. By “metric” we mean that the climate emergency calls for sharp near-term reductions in emissions, and it just so happens that the transport sector is extremely well placed to do its part. But in light of recent attacks on the part of climate deniers, what is the score? Should we now give up on our climate metric? Let us hear what Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, has to say about it. Continue reading

It’s March, let’s go to the movies: "Fixing the Great Mistake in New York City"

Fixing the Great Mistake: Autocentric Development in New York City opens a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today. The irrepressible Elizabeth Press points her camera at Paul White of New York’s Transportation Alternatives who tells us the story.

Fixing the Great Mistake in New York City: Autocentric Development

- by Elizabeth Press on February 25, 2010

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Next Steps After Copenhagen: Opportunities and Challenges in the Transport Sector

For those of you who may have missed this recent brainstorming session organized at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC and attended by a number of other important players on the worldwide sustainable transport scene, here is the next best thing we can offer you, complete with more comprehensive references and URLs to the main presentations. I am sure that many or our readers would have liked to be there to observe and contribute in person. You now have a chance to send your comments to all those who were there are the time.

A wrap-up of key messages from EMBARQ’s Transforming Transportation 2010.

Source: EMBARQ.org

Last Friday, January 15, 180 transport and climate change experts from local and national governments, multi-lateral development agencies, academic institutions, nonprofits and private companies gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss “Next Steps After Copenhagen: Opportunities and Challenges in the Transport Sector” as part of the annual Transforming Transportation conference.

The full-day event, held at the Inter-American Development Bank headquarters, came one month after the international community met in Copenhagen to negotiate the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol and a new international climate agreement on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The event was jointly organized by the Asian Development Bank, EMBARQ – The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport.

The day’s events, hosted at IDB’s Enrique Iglesias Auditorium, provided a forum for the transport, climate and development communities to discuss the following topics:

* How the transport community can best engage in solving the challenges caused by climate change;

* Connections between climate change and other drivers of transport interventions in developing countries;

* Outcomes of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen and significance for national and local policy making in the transport sector.

Organizers drafted key messages that will help inform the following initiatives, including:

* The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) discussion and policy guidelines on sustainability in the transport sector;

* The Regional Environmental Sustainable Transportation Strategy of the Inter-American Development Bank;

* The 2010-2011 work plan for the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport.

The key messages from the event Next Steps After Copenhagen are:

#1: Climate change mitigation efforts need to address emissions from the transport sector in developing countries in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2050, a target suggested by the IPCC and referred to by the Copenhagen Accord.

#2: Decision making in the transport sector should consider multiple policy objectives in support of sustainable development, including adaptation to climate change, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, economic and social development, congestion relief, road safety, air quality and health.

#3: Countries can take important steps towards sustainable, low carbon transportation now, before the international community reaches a new international climate agreement or revised Kyoto Protocol. Leading developing countries and cities have initiated efforts to make their transport sectors less carbon intensive or, in some cases, completely carbon neutral.

#4: The allocation of transport-related funds requires a paradigm shift. The guiding principle in future transport funding should be the Avoid-Shift-Improve approach. A better understanding of the mitigation potential in the transport sector will speed up the formulation of more comprehensive investment strategies. Externalities, such as air pollution and carbon emissions, must be addressed through comprehensive pricing policies. And financing from different sources – i.e. nonprofits, multi-lateral development agencies, governments, and the private sector – need to complement each other, rather than work towards different goals. As a large and fast-growing source of carbon emissions, the transport sector should have access to financing under international climate change agreements, in order to spur mitigation activities.

#5: There should be more financial support directed towards enabling and preparatory activities, rather than simply investing in transport systems and infrastructure alone. Sector-wide programs can significantly complement individual projects, and they should include a bundle of measures, instead of isolated interventions, to make transport projects more sustainable.

#6: Adaptation needs to be mainstreamed in the transportation sector. Knowledge, tools and methodologies to address climate change adaptation must be developed, tested, scaled up and mainstreamed quickly into the transportation sector. There is also a need to identify synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation activities, which should work in conjunction with each other as part of an overall transportation strategy.
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To view more details about the event, including the full agenda, Powerpoint presentations, speaker bios and photos, go to www.transformingtransportation2010.org.

Letter from the editor: 2009? And what the hell was that all about?

The following was sent yesterday by the editor as a private communication to a small group of long time colleagues, as a kick-off to and call for collaboration in the new year ahead. Since the reaction has been so immediate and positive I have decided to post it to World Streets, as part of our transition strategy and general preparations for the year ahead. Comments more than welcome. Eric Britton, Editor, World Streets (Shown: Our editor at his desk as he reflects on 2009.) Continue reading

Editorial: Après Copenhagen. Now what?

Five times since late evening of the fatal Friday 18th in Copenhagen, I have attempted to get out a strong editorial on this important subject, sustainable transport included, but thus far I have yet to crack my task. Be patient and in the meantime remember what kind old Henry Ford once so famously wrote: “Of all the kinds of work I known, thinking is the hardest. And that’s I guess why people do so little of it”.

But should you be at all curious to follow my tortured path, during all of which I was trying hard to find a way to be at once both lucid and useful, if you click here you will find my first late Friday night attempt. If I may, there are a few thoughts in there that still may be worth a minute of your time. However upon careful inspection I decided to back away from the early versions of the posting because I found it too verbose, muddy, too roughly reasoned and still incomplete.

But above all I found that in its first iteration it was too openly, one might even say arrogantly critical, and not sufficiently positive. At this point we need to lay off the criticism and carping, that’s the past, and now get put our heads and hearts together to see what needs to be gleaned from all this terrible experience (the word is not too harsh) for the future. Which is after all ours to grasp.

Have a look at the revised version here in the next few days. I am confident that you will find it better and hopefully even of some use as we struggle to pick up the pieces from COP15.

The editor

Lessons from COP15 : Staring the challenge in the eyes. Three Failures – Three new beginnings

It’s close to midnight on this fateful Friday the 18th, as COP15 suddenly trudges unfulfilled sadly into our past. And as I sort through the debris, I am struggling to figure out what might be the main lessons of this experience. Let me share with you my late-night thoughts concerning three event-shaping failures, or at least stark short-comings which I suggest we will all do well to learn from. After all we have the planet waiting for us. Continue reading

You, me, technology, pattern breaks and unleashing the power of the market: Think Copenhagen Wheel

World Streets rarely gives in to “technical fix” solutions to our dual challenges of wrecking the planet and our cities staying stuck in hopelessly outmoded 20th century patterns and actions – because we know for sure that the answer lies not in the deus ex machine of technology but above all within ourselves. But hold on for a minute – let’s have a look and give some thought to . . . the Copenhagen Wheel (nice name!).

Anything that works.

As we look around the mournful Nordic battlefield this morning, at the strewn bodies, broken hopes, and hastily retreating figures and CO2 streams that will soon have been all that remain of COP15, we have every reason to be ready to look hard at any and all ideas that may hold out promise for the future, for the near future, no matter how few, no matter how strange at first glance.

So today let’s relax a bit and ponder something developed by a group of technology heads at MIT, which, surprise!, brings us right up before the necessary path to behavioral change — a most obdurate challenge as we have been seeing in Copenhagen these weeks. Still there are times when technology can help us, not only do things differently but also to do them better. To help us make, one by one, more sustainable choices. That after all is what sustainability is all about.

So let’s have a gander at the Copenhagen Wheel, an interesting playful, and idea-ful, example of how this can work. And oh yes!, let’s not stop there.

MIT’s big wheel in Copenhagen

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —Dec. 15, at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, MIT researchers debut the Copenhagen Wheel — a revolutionary new bicycle wheel that not only boosts power, but can keep track of friends, fitness, smog and traffic. Though it looks like an ordinary bicycle wheel with an oversized center, the Wheel’s bright red hub is a veritable Swiss army knife’s worth of electronic gadgets and novel functions.

“Over the past few years we have seen a kind of biking renaissance, which started in Copenhagen and has spread from Paris to Barcelona to Montreal,” says Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT SENSEable City Laboratory and the Copenhagen Wheel project. “It’s sort of like ‘Biking 2.0′ — whereby cheap electronics allow us to augment bikes and convert them into a more flexible, on-demand system.”

The first goal of the Copenhagen Wheel project is to promote cycling by extending the range of distance people can cover and by making the whole riding experience smoother so that even steep inclines are no longer a barrier to comfortable cycling.

Toward this end, the Wheel can store energy every time the rider puts on the brakes, and then give that power back to provide a boost when riding uphill or to add a burst of speed in traffic.

“The Wheel uses a technology similar to the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which has radically changed Formula One racing over the past couple of years,” says Ratti. “When you brake, your kinetic energy is recuperated by an electric motor and then stored by batteries within the wheel, so that you can have it back to you when you need it. The bike wheel contains all you need so that no sensors or additional electronics need to be added to the frame and an existing bike can be retrofitted with the blink of an eye.”

“Our city’s ambition is that 50 percent of the citizens will take their bike to work or school every day,” says Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen. “So for us, this project is part of the answer to how can we make using a bike even more attractive.”

But there are also a variety of extra functions hidden within the hub of the Copenhagen Wheel. By using a series of sensors and a Bluetooth connection to the user’s iPhone, which can be mounted on the handlebars, the wheel can monitor the bicycle’s speed, direction and distance traveled, as well as collect data on air pollution and even the proximity of the rider’s friends.

“One of the applications that we have discussed with the City of Copenhagen is that of an incentive scheme whereby citizens collect Green Miles — something similar to frequent flyer miles, but good for the environment,” says Christine Outram, who led the team of MIT researchers.

The project also aims to create a platform for individual behavioral change.

“The Copenhagen Wheel is part of a more general trend: that of inserting intelligence in our everyday objects and of creating a smart support infrastructure around ourselves for everyday life,” says Assaf Biderman, associate director of the project. “For example, the Wheel has a smart lock: if somebody tries to steal it, it goes into a mode where the brake regenerates the maximum amount of power, and sends you a text message. So in the worst case scenario the thief will have charged your batteries before you get back your bike.”

The initial prototypes of the Copenhagen Wheel were developed along with company Ducati Energia and the Italian Ministry of the Environment. It is expected that the wheel will go into production next year, with a tag price competitive with that of a standard electric bike. According to Claus Juhl, CEO of Copenhagen, the city might place the first order and use bicycles retrofitted with the Copenhagen Wheel as a substitution for city employee cars as part of the city’s goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.


* Click here to play video

The Copenhagen Wheel team at MIT is composed of Christine Outram, Project Leader, Rex Britter, Andrea Cassi, Xiaoji Chen, Jennifer Dunnam, Paula Echeverri, Myshkin Ingawale, Ari Kardasis, E Roon Kang, Sey Min, Assaf Biderman and Carlo Ratti. The project was developed for the City of Copenhagen in cooperation with Ducati Energia and with the support of the Italian Ministry for the Environment.

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Now what happens?

What about this? Let’s assume this is something that really can be developed into a serious sustainability tool, so now what?

Let’s assume that the goal – I am correct in this? – is to make the strongest possible contribution to a sustainable planet and more livable cities – what is the best, the fastest, the most powerful way in which this idea can be put to work.

Have no doubt about it, if the product really does fill a market niche, there will be industrial groups that will reverse engineer it in a few days and be able to put their own versions on the market before our MIT colleagues figure out what they are going to do next September. This brave new world, the global economy, and the forces of the market will see to that.

So, now what?

The editor

PS. Is there anyone who is brave enough to explain to our MIT friends about the perils of weird CaptALIZation? We need to save the planet AND preserve our languages. ;-)

COP15: Radio France interviews World Streets Editor

As part of the massive media effort underway in France in support of the Copenhagen initiative, the editor of World Streets was invited by Ann-Cécile Bras of Radio France International this morning to share his views and reactions to the COP15 process and what might come next. His principal theme: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is the ‘solution’.” Follow the podcast here. Continue reading

Not for COP15: Two we should probably set aside on Day 1 Not 1. Cap-and-Trade. Not 2. Carbon Offsets.

It’s not quite transport per se, but it is climate, and yes, climate is transport. So take eight minutes to view this presentation by one team of why Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Offsets are way off target, and worse if climate protection is the game. That at least is the story of “The Story of Cap & Trade.”

Don’t be fooled by the casual tone. There is real analysis behind this little presentation. (That said, check out Comments below where I am sure we shall be seeing other views on this.)

Here is how they describe their motivations for making this film:
“We made The Story of Cap & Trade to encourage a real discussion about how to solve the enormous climate challenges we face. If there was ever an issue that merited broad, even heated public debate, this is it. I’d far rather people argue about cap and trade and other policy options than ignore them or silently go along with the crowd, even when our guts tell us the solution on the table is inadequate….” (Click here for their full statement.)

Click here to view their eight minute video.

The New York Times of 2 December had this to day about this little film:
“The push by pro-climate bill, anti-cap-and-trade groups is also getting stronger. A film released yesterday by The Story of Stuff, Free Range Studios, Climate Justice Now! and Durban Group for Climate Justice is aimed at the general public and attempts to explain the cap-and-trade concept in a simple way. It tells listeners that “the devils in the details” of cap and trade including free allowances and offsets will only line the pockets of Wall Street…” (You can read the full NYT piece here.)

You may also find that it useful to have a look at the annotated script which provides foot notes on just about all of the points made. Click here for script.

Sometimes it’s simple. Transport and Climate change

I am not sure if irony is the right word in this case, but we can be absolutely sure that both Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Offsets are going to get a huge amount of attention in Copenhagen this week. But we could, if we chose to, do a lot better.

We are, the transport sector that is, as you know something like 20% of the problem. And when it comes to how all six and a half billions of us get around in our day to day lives, there are only two solutions that will do the job: (1) Carbon taxes and (2) New Mobility choices. There is no other way out.

Now all we need is the leadership, the strong consensus to get us there. Stay tuned.

And make youir voice heard.

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

COP15: Getting transport into the climate agenda Why get in the middle of a cat fight when you don’t have to.

Lee Shipper has challenged the thought expressed in today’s feature article concerning the importance of finding ways to bring the sustainable transport agenda into higher much relief in the COP15 climate negotiations just about to get underway. His point — maybe a better idea not to do this at all — is one on which we would like to invite your comments here.


Schipper writes on this date: COP15: Getting transport into the climate agenda

AS one of the creators of this agenda, let me promote it by pointing out that the basic paradigm STARTS with sustainable transportation and reaps CO2 savings as a co-benefit.

The greatest problem for the COP is that there are few key transport system stakeholders there at any time. That, in my humble opinion, may be a reason NOT to put transport into the climate agenda.

Rather, put climate into the transport agenda and keep transport out of the reaches of the bitterly divided debate that is already apparent here in Copenhagen, where the police appear to be preparing for an onslaught.

We cannot solve long-term problems of transport and land use in the more narrow confines of an overheated debate over CO2, however important that CO2 problem is looming.

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Comments invited either just below here (Comments) or to the New Mobility Cafe at NewMobilityCafe@yahoogroups.com