In the first episode of Fight for Planet A, we learned Australians were the worst performers globally in terms of per capita carbon emissions and that energy makes up the biggest portion of our carbon emissions. This week, we discovered the second biggest driver of Australian emissions: transport.
According to Fight for Planet A, transport makes up around 19% of our total emissions, with 60% of that coming from the cars we drive. As our lives slowly shift back to normal, we’ll need to consider how we can bring down our emissions footprint with more environmentally responsible forms of transport. So, let’s talk about the alternatives.
Time to get active
Walk, run, ride, skate, scoot or otherwise, there is no more sustainable form of transport than active personal transport. Daily physical activity from active transport results in tangible health benefits as well as significant reductions in emissions and air pollution by reducing the number of cars on the road.
During the coronavirus pandemic, cities around the world have seen air pollution fall dramatically as residents collectively retreated indoors under lockdown conditions. In response, many governments are introducing schemes aimed at maintaining higher air quality as restrictions are loosened. The UK has taken this one step further in announcing a “green transport revolution”. Closer to home, pop-up cycleways were introduced in Sydney to provide more options for people to travel while social distancing. Consider how you can integrate active transport into your life, and if your commuting distance is simply too far look at how you can combine it with public transport.
Using public transport
When time or distance means that active transport isn’t possible, public transport is the next best option. Currently, nearly 8 out of 10 Australians travel to work, school or university by car, which simply isn’t sustainable. As a country built primarily with road transport in mind, public transport has often had to play catch-up to urban form. This often results in negative perceptions of public transport in major cities, but when it comes to fighting climate change the extra effort is worth it.
As shown during the episode, a full busload of people can take up to 62 cars off the road when at full occupancy, dramatically reducing the amount of emissions produced by those on board in a single trip. For trains this is even more pronounced, with a single train capable of taking up to 500 cars off the road. Even more significantly, there is the capacity to electrify public transport such as buses, trains and trams with 100% renewable energy in the future. For more information on transport solutions to climate change, check out this Climate Council factsheet.
Make an emissions-smart vehicle choice
In a country as spread out as ours driving will undoubtedly remain a significant part of the transport mix into the future. If this is to be addressed, looking at the vehicles we choose to drive will be important if we are to reduce our carbon footprint. There are a number of electric vehicle (EV) technologies already on the market and Planet Ark research shows they hold significant promise for reducing the carbon footprint of the transport sector. Unfortunately, the price-point of these options means they remain out of reach for many Australians.
That does not mean you can’t choose a vehicle with a lower carbon footprint with a little effort. As highlighted during the episode, Australia is one of the few developed nations without vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gases. This means the onus is on consumers to do their own research if they want to purchase a low-emissions vehicle. Learn more about vehicle emissions ratings and how to compare potential purchases here.
And when it comes to flying, the best thing we can do is reduce our time in the air. Look at where meetings could be moved into online settings to cut down on business travel. When you do use air travel, choose to offset your emissions wherever possible via the service provided by your airline carrier.