A study conducted on 120 major cities across the globe has revealed that climate-friendly transport can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22% in 15 years. The study was conducted by the Berlin-based climate research institute MCC and published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

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The Study

The researchers used the NEDUM calculation model, which is well established in regional economics, and fed it with data on population densities, land use, dwelling sizes, rents, and transportation costs for each individual city. They then applied four approaches to climate policy in urban transport, namely fuel taxes, efficient cars, investments in public transport, or climate-friendly urban development, implementing them both independently and simultaneously. This resulted in two main outputs for each city and each scenario: the climate gas emissions from urban transport, and a value for the inhabitants’ welfare.

Averaging over the 120 big cities studied, climate gas emissions fall by between 4 and 12% over the course of 15 years, depending on the urban climate policy approach pursued–and by 31% if all four approaches are pursued simultaneously. The intermediate result for welfare is rather poor: minus 3% on average. But the point of the new study is that in a second step, the research team built in the constraint that inhabitants’ welfare in each city increases at least marginally.

The Findings

The calculation model then determined the policy package with the greatest climate protection effect for each individual city, with the result that of the maximum achievable 31% emission savings, 22% can still be realized (with an average 1% increase in welfare). The study shows it is possible to reduce emissions in a welfare-increasing way in each city while achieving most of the global emission reductions. However, in view of the local specifics, a context-adequate strategy is really needed in each case; there is no one-size-fits-all solution here.

The study highlights the importance of urban transport policies in the fight against global heating. An estimated 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions derive from urban transport, which has been largely neglected in the Nationally Determined Contributions that are being used in climate diplomacy to find a way out of the crisis. The upcoming reform of the road traffic regulations in Germany, for example, is significant as it would finally allow municipalities to act flexibly when it comes to climate protection.

The study revealed that tailor-made climate policy in transport can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22% in 15 years, subject to the condition that the quality of life is not allowed to decline in any of these cities. The study highlights the importance of urban transport policies in the fight against global heating. The research team built in the constraint that inhabitants’ welfare in each city increases at least marginally, and the calculation model was then able to determine the policy package with the greatest climate protection effect for each individual city. The study shows it’s possible to reduce emissions in a welfare-increasing way in each city while achieving most of the global emission reductions.

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