More than ever before a key factor in the future success of the sector, to an extent where (a) near-term improvements in energy efficiency and (b) massive highest priority cross-over to renewables, becomes a vital key to success of the Sustainable Development and the New Mobility Agendas.
This essay of September 2014 by Benoit Lefevre and Angela Enriquez of the World Resources Institute was written in the run-up to the 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York City is reproduced here in its entirety four years later as part of the extensive reading list which has been developed for our Climate/New Mobility master classes.
The three short sections that follow are notable in our present context by the questions they ask, namely:
1. Why Should World Leaders Care About Transport?
2. How Can World Leaders Achieve Climate Action in Transport?
3. Setting the Stage for Bold Action in the Transport Sector
With this program we shall try to provide our own best answers, commentaries, to those three key challenges. Let’s go!
From the Archives: Transport Sector Key to Closing World’s Emissions Gap
I used your post to re-read — after, I estimate, 25 years — this delightful essay. I own two copies, one which is part of “Towards a History of Needs” published four years later in 1977).
In that volume, there is an introductory note, which might be useful to add (see end, along with the forward for the 1974 publication — Perennial Library — of this essay by itself). Two things come from these two extras: a) this essay first appeared in Le Monde (yes, probably in French), and b) his defined audience included, equally, the under-developed world.
He, of course, missed global warming as an issue that would fit nicely next to “energy crisis.”
I would add that he missed the link between high-speed and high-power and the formalities of control — rules, regulations, resources — that also disenfranchise those with less speed and power.
Peter D. Norton’s recent book, “Fighting Traffic” does a yeoman effort to show how the transition from “transit” to “transport” in North American cities took place 1915-1935.
I will continue to muse over Illich’s brilliant thinking.
In the context of ongoing work on a new book, “Toward a General Theory of Transport in Cities”, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the starting point for policy and political decisions in the field often described as “urban transport” absolutely has to open up with considerations not of vehicles and infrastructure, technology and entrepreneurship, nor even of people and cities, but on the very bottom line our starting place must be climate and GHG emissions. And the other half of the climate coin is energy, and in fact equity.
So may I suggest that this could be a good time for us to have another look at Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”. And I ask you, how do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende, voter registration, 1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth, etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies. But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.
So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen. So off we go through the looking glass and into the future with Illich as our guide!)
Working notes for June 5th Master Class presentation to the IFPEN-School Paris
Summary: The thesis of this presentation is (a) that the combinations of technologies, operations and institutional arrangements which today define the transport sector are so grossly inefficient, inappropriate and so thoroughly locked into the system, that only a major paradigm change will be capable of shaking them up. Our unexpected good luck is (b) that such a tectonic pattern change is currently in full swing. However, as often happens, they are not broadly spotted or understood. And (c) this opens up an unexpected and most welcome opportunity.
There can be no doubt that (d) our uppermost public policy target today has to be the planetary emergency (global warming, resource depletion and species extinctions). Tragically (e) the reality of present practices is that this message has still to get through. Under these circumstances the imperative first step is to become aware of it and then to seek its implications, which is in fact the goal of this presentation.
In the case of our sector, (f) the critical link between transport and climate is energy, and this from two strategic perspectives. First (g) the enormous and as yet largely untapped potential for major near-term advances, at relatively low cost. Even more decisive is the enormous near-term potential of the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in the transport sector. This is the lifeline of the future of our planet, no less. And the message should be taken to the December UN COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris.
The climate/transport link transits directly via the energy sector. Conceptually the relationships are very simple. Reality is of course quite another thing.
Our immediate emergency target (climate change, resource depletion, and species extinctions) is to find ways to combine technologies and procedures which will allow us to virtually eliminate carbon-based fuels and impacts in a necessary short amount of time.
It had been a year and a half since I last worked in Taiwan, the longest separation since I started collaborating with colleagues there in 2009. During much of this interval, in addition to my teaching, editorial responsibilities and advisory work, I have been working on a most challenging new book under the title “General Theory of Transport in Cities”. The book aims to set out what I believe to be a much needed, consistent base for planning, policy and investment decisions in this important and fast changing field where ad hoc decision-making by unprepared politicians and ambitious interest groups has all too often prevailed.
This last year has been a period of deep reflection on my accumulated experience in the transport and sustainable development fields in cities around the world over more than four decades. As a result of this ongoing process, I find myself this time looking at the issues in Taiwan from this broader international perspective. My keynote address to the International Forum on Livable City & Eco-Mobility in Hsinchu on 29 January was the first in a series of international “road tests”, which are giving me a precious opportunity to present some of the main arguments from the book before expert audiences to test them and seek their critical comments and views. The lively discussions that took place in Hsinchu during the forum and my four days there proved to be most valuable.
Electric cars inspire dreaming, not only on the part of some consumers, observers and enthusiasts but also by public authorities who are trying hard to work their way out of the twin-headed hydra of finding the difficult path to sustainable transport in cities, and in many cases also having to deal with an auto industry in painful transition. As someone who drove a small ecar every day for ten years in Paris traffic (see attached pic), I personally found it a grand way to get around the city. But is that the crux of the issue here? I think not.
Professor Robert Ayres will be joining The Sustainable Development, Economy and Society Master Class at the ISG in Paris this year as a guest speaker on Thursday at 14:00. You will find a short bio note summarizing some of the high points of his career and prolific output just below. In his presentation and in the following question period Ayres will be looking at some important aspects of the future of the planet, which holds out some interesting clues for the future career and expertise choices of young people looking at a future business career. As he rakes through the smoldering coals of a world soon to be saddled with post-peak oil prices that will never again come back to “normal”, he may have a few clues for your future.
Brief.Joy ride: IEA test-drives the Parisian electric car-sharing system As electric vehicles reduce oil consumption and vehicle carbon emissions on a per-kilometre basis, a team from the International Energy Agency recently checked out the innovative Parisian car-sharing system that allows tourists and residents to criss-cross Paris for a modest fee – and an even more attractive cost in carbon emissions: zero.—> Click herefor article.
SAFA tempos or Nepal’s version of electric three wheelers are typically seen in Kathmandu’s busy streets. Running at an average speed of 60 kilometer per hour, safa tempos serve at least 127 thousand people everyday transporting individuals to their destinations. This is quite a challenge for a country that has been constantly confronted with power cuts that reach sixteen hours a day especially during winter season. Continue reading →
This out of control bulimic spiral begins with man’s uncontrollable tool-making itch. And from thence, and unknown to us at the time, to tools which take on transforming lives of their own — one of which in the domain of mobility being ever-increasing speed, which in turn translates to ever-increasing distances, and which finally — and in largely unnoticed fatal tandem– destroys the reality and oh-so important qualities of proximity, contact and community. That’s the deal and facing all this is the challenge of this collaborative project for 2020. What we all thought at first was merely more convenient transportation, has snuck up on us and turned into very inconvenient and altogether unanticipated transformation.
This weekend saw the first public testing of the much bruited Autolib’ carshare project currently getting underway here in Paris. And as you wait for our in-depth coverage, on-the-spot interviews and film we thought you might find it handy to refresh your understanding of the basic objectives and challenges, with this reprint of our 10 December 2010 article in which we try to take a balanced view of this ambitious transportation project. You will be hearing a lot more about Autolib’ in the coming months. If it works, it will be a major transformative project and will make a lot of people start to think in quite different terms about how they are going to get around in the city in the future. (For a quick print update try here and here. And for a short video, here) Continue reading →
A sustainable transport system is a system of choices – quite the opposite in many ways of the old all-car no-choice model that all too often spends most of its time in taking up scarce space but not moving. With this very much in view, the City of Paris has just stepped up to the plate and is now in the process of bringing into service what they propose will be a new link in the chain of sustainable transport options: a carsharing system not quite like any other. No less than three thousand cars to come on line in shared service in just nine months – and electric cars at that – working out of 1000 to 1200 stations spotted over not only the central city but a number of surrounding communities as well. The biggest and most daring carshare bet of all time. Continue reading →
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.
Environment vs. Mobility? (Image source: Times of India)
“A few weeks ago, we (India Streets) had reported about India’s plans to reduce the climate change impact from its transportation sector. However, we saw that India’s plan, like many other plans out there, attempts to tackle the problem almost entirely by improving vehicle and fuel technology without adequately dealing with the most important factor – the number of vehicle-kilometers travelled. In the article below, we will read Prof. Madhav Badami of McGill University argue that “[fuel economy improvements will do little to mitigate [climate] impacts, and might even exacerbate them to the extent that the improvements increase motor vehicle activity by reducing the costs of driving… On the other hand, measures to curb vehicle-kilometers can provide major “co-benefits” by helping control energy consumption and related emissions, as well as other transport impacts.” Continue reading →
This commentary, just in from reader John Verity writing from Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, takes Illich beyond his original point of departure in this essay written in 1974, discussing the flow of his thinking on energy and technology that appeared in other pages and books in the decade that followed.
This article appeared today in the Sierra Club’s series by their chairman Carl Pope, “Taking the initiative”. It is interesting to see how an American who has lived and worked in India in his youth sees the two models.