The Corona pandemic might disturb the transition of the transport sector that is necessary to live up to the Paris agreement and save our climate and society. A path forward is discussed based on a ‘Green New Deal’.
Henrik has written this opinion piece for the Swedish environmental magazine Aktuell Hållbarhet.
Here is a link to the Original published text (in Swedish).
Below is an English version:
Time for a green restart of the transport sector after corona
The rapid transition of the transport sector required to live up to the Paris Agreement now risks being obscured by the Corona pandemic. But it is possible to navigate around today’s crisis without losing sight of the long-term goal, writes Henrik Ny, sustainability researcher, Blekinge Institute of Technology.
THE CORONA PANDEMIC has in a short time thrown Sweden and the world into an acute crisis. In addition to human suffering, business and the economy are also severely affected. The government is now in full swing with emergency rescue measures to minimize the adverse effects. At the same time, the government has on several occasions pointed out that they must save some money to be able to restart the economy when the crisis is over. Recently, many votes have been raised for that such a restart should be green. Fatih Birol from the International Energy Agency is one of them. He was recently joined by 13 climate and environment ministers in the EU. In Sweden, we have heard similar suggestions from Tomas Kåberger, the Chalmers professor who sits on Vattenfall’s board, Isadora Wronski from Greenpeace and several politicians, including the deputy Prime Minster Isabella Lövin.
So, what can we do to bring about a green restart of the transport sector after the crisis and at the same time ensure long-term competitiveness?
Perhaps we can draw inspiration from the latest work on the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ in the EU and China. Author Jeremy Rifkin has been an important inspiration for this movement and last year he presented a 23-point plan for the United States to learn from the experience in the EU and China and start building new societal infrastructure that could take the country into a new era of resource efficiency and sustainability. In short, this means combining and strengthening the ongoing digitalisation and renewable energy revolutions to rebuild buildings to become the new renewable energy suppliers operating a green transport system within a green society.
Here are some suggestions based on Rifkin’s plan that would be particularly suitable for national regional and municipal initiatives for Sweden’s transport sector in the future:
Eliminate subsidies for fossil and inefficient systems. In Sweden, for example, travel deductions could be transferred from lone travelers in fossil cars to those who ride bikes, public transport and share renewably operated car services.
Enhance bonus malus to favor electric cars and renewably driven cars at the expense of fossils.
Upgrade and rebuild all public buildings for zero emission and export of renewable electricity. Also favor redevelopment of other buildings in the same direction.
Promote energy storage in homes as well as in commercial and public buildings in order to have backup in case of low access to energy and in unforeseen emergency crises.
Connect smart buildings to micro-networks at the neighborhood level.
Develop smart flexible national electricity networks that the neighborhood networks should be able to connect to.
Connect electric vehicles to the new smart electricity networks by promoting the installation of electric car chargers in tenant-owner associations and private homes as well as in public places.
Get more money for the new green given by re-prioritizing pension fund money to rebuild infrastructure as suggested above and start a national green bank to promote investment and transition projects.
Educate and train the workforce required for the transition.
Collaborate with other countries within the EU and internationally for accelerated changeover.
An additional benefit of the type of decentralized electrified transport system outlined here based on Rifkin’s book will also be that they will be very robust against future disruptions and crises as they will stay online even if single central plants were to be knocked out.
Although electric power is in many ways preferable in the longer term, it is important to also be able to find good renewable fuels for existing internal combustion engines. Therefore, parallel investments should be made on, among other things, biogas that has high climate improvement potential, can be produced wherever there are people and agriculture and can strengthen the local communities’ economy.
There are apparently many possible measures to put in place, but it can be difficult to get an overview and keep track of the likely effects of different choices. Therefore, many roadmaps have been developed in Sweden to facilitate for decision-makers. However, we now see that crises and new knowledge can quickly change planning conditions and make roadmaps out of date. It can then also be difficult to adjust the roadmaps.
My research group belongs to those who now want to help build a new working method with flexible simulation support and a decision-making environment that can take into account sudden crises and at the same time ensure that we continue to move fast enough towards the long-term goal of a fossil-free transport sector in a fossil-free environment. Society.
Roadmaps and decision support are thus in progress. In the end, however, it is up to the government and other decision-makers to act on the new knowledge and ensure that the restart that is now planned does prolong outdated unsustainable structures but favors the green restart that we all need. We cross our fingers, hoping that they will take that chance.
sustainability researcher, Blekinge Institute of Technology