Question: What initiatives, policies and technologies can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector?
Submit Proposals: https://www.climatecolab.org/contests/2017/transportation
Deadline: Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 18:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.
The movement of people and goods is critical for the functioning of economies. Transportation allows access to basic necessities such as places of employment, health-care, education, government, and other daily services. Tourism also remains a growing international market, also heavily relied upon by many low-income countries. In fact, transportation has become an enabler of the global, connected economy. However, that increase in activity has caused transportation energy demand to rise, and due to this sector’s oil dependence, GHG emissions to grow. GHG emissions from transportation are growing at the highest rate among those from all end-use sectors.
The transportation sector includes the movement of people and goods by cars, buses, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and other modes, including non-motorized vehicles. Each of these modes connects spatially dispersed locations, and the transportation sector interacts with many disciplines of the CoLab, including materials, energy supply, industry, waste management, agriculture and forestry, etc. An efficient transportation system is critical for the functioning of interconnected economic, social, and political systems.
With the Paris COP21 Agreement and its commitment to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius and make efforts toward 1.5, the transport sector, in which some of the rapid gains can be made, will be central. Innovations within the transportation sector, including strategies, policies, investments, and infrastructure within urban, freight, and passenger transport, will be imperative to meeting this goal. Sustainable transport is also an essential component in sustainable development strategies that relates directly to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 (infrastructure, Industrialization, and innovation) and SDG 11 (cities).
The majority of GHGs from transportation are CO2 emissions resulting from the combustion of petroleum products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines. The largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions result from road transport emissions. Passenger cars and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans, account for over half of the emissions within this category. With 75 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 yet to be built, actions taken right now will shape urbanization patterns and quality of life for decades (The World Bank, 2015).
Recent developments in information technologies, smart cities/ports/airports, IoT, self-driving vehicles, robotics, increased vehicle automation, and growing electrification of vehicle drivetrains together with a targeted action in the fields of public transportation, city planning, and the emergence of the sharing economy in general and shared mobility services in particular may generate a disruptive change in the way we travel and transport goods. In addition, there are signs of change in societal values and travel behavior. The need for GHG and specifically CO2 abatement and improved fuel efficiency in the transport sector is evident.
Proposals are welcomed on any topic, technical or policy measure, scientific study, that may contribute to the struggle of combating the transport sector’s contribution to climate change.
Among the areas with potential to mitigate GHG emissions are especially (for the list see http://www.unece.org/?id=9890 - with adaptations):
- Innovative vehicle technologies, advanced engine management systems, and efficient vehicle powertrains;
- The use of sustainable biofuels, not only of the first generation (e.g., vegetable oil, biodiesel, bio-alcohols and biogas from sugar plants, crops or animal fats, etc.), but also of the second (e.g., biofuels from biomass and non-food crops including wood) and third generations (e.g., biodegradable fuels from algae);
- An improved transport infrastructure together with Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to avoid traffic congestion and to foster the use of intermodal transport (e.g., road, rail, and waterways);
- Consumer information (e.g., campaigns for eco-driving, use of public transport, and modal transport etc.);
- Legal & policy instruments (e.g., tax incentives for low carbon products and processes and taxation of CO2 intensive products and processes); and
- Vehicle-to-grid integration allowing Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) to directly connect to the local electricity grid, storage technologies, and local renewable energy systems.
Also, the following considerations may serve as food for thought:
- Millennials, GenXers, and Baby Boomers continue to be attracted to urban life. However, younger people tend to not aspire owning a car as their parents and grandparents did. Access to a car or access to other means of convenient mobility in general is valued increasingly while sheer ownership of a car is losing its appeal. But are these patterns to continue once Millennials create their family? To what extent can the observed changes be attributed to the Millennials as compared to the increased use of information technology?
- How could economic measures, such as road pricing contribute to combating GHG emissions from the transport sector?
- With regards to the transport of freight - how could rail be made more competitive and sustainable? How can market distortions caused by non-pricing of road (versus pricing for use of rail infrastructure by freight transport).
- How can transport costs be made to reflect real costs (especially with regards to subsidies for fossil fuels, internalization of external costs, infrastructure costs, pollution impact on health, etc.)
- Work patterns have begun to change just has other activities (such as shopping). How can transportation adapt in a sustainable way? How are technology, policy, and behavior change intertwined?
- The sharing economy is already transforming the mobility landscape globally. How could t the sustainability of urban mobility systems be increased (for example, by shared taxis, car sharing, improvements in public transportation, non-motorized modes, etc.) How can the surge of data-technology, open data, and open-source ecosystems be used to improve transport planning, facilitate management, and provide a better experience for transport users.
- How will the emergence of self-driving vehicles impact transportation patterns, city planning and carbon emissions? If automated vehicles are used primarily in shared mobility scenarios, they could greatly reduce the environmental cost of motorized transport; on the other hand, the possibility of “empty trips” with zero-occupancy cars could exacerbate the environmental costs of automobility. Privately owned automated vehicles could lead to massive land-use changes due to greatly extended commuting distances, thereby increasing energy use and emissions.
- How can we effectively study full-life cycle carbon footprint of each mode of transportation (from cradle to grave including changes in land-use) and the overall costs/benefits analysis (productivity, congestion, health, etc.).
- With a view to e-mobility, what is the future and role of electricity storage applied to transportation, which could increase the adoption of battery electric vehicles and eventually make commercial electric aircraft a reality.
A Note about Technology & Policy Solutions
Actions to address GHG emissions involve a mix of social and physical activities. For instance, proposals for the transportation sector could, for example, consider the following actions:
- Increasing drivetrain efficiency or reducing losses, such as driving resistance (air drag and rolling resistance).
- Switching from gasoline or diesel to alternative, low-carbon fuels.
- Encouraging consumers to buy less, smaller, or more lightweight vehicles.
- Encouraging vehicle manufacturers to diversify their product lines.
- Reducing travel by encouraging behavioral changes, such as carpooling or mode-shifts.
Proposals on technological actions might include the development and deployment of entirely new transport technologies that will release either fewer emissions per passenger-kilometers or freight tonne-kilometer, or drastically reduce emissions from existing transport modes. Other approaches — including telecommuting — might involve avoiding transport activity altogether or provide users with more information to make informed choices on their mobility.
Proposals on policy actions might include land-use, transport planning, or economic incentives that also impact transport activity and its emissions. The distances people must travel to access work and other services are determined by the locations of their residences, businesses, schools, and other services. These travel options are also affected by geography and the location of where roads and public transit facilities are built (or not built). The two are both intimately related to issues of land use and transportation planning and thus have direct impacts on overall GHG emissions, particularly in urban areas. Proposals that aim to increase mobility in concert with creating greater access are strongly encouraged.
Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria:
Feasibility of the actions proposed in the proposal. Judges with different kinds of expertise will evaluate the technical, economic, social, and political feasibility of the proposals.
Novelty of the proposal's ideas. Innovative thinking and originality in a proposal will be valued more than encyclopedic knowledge. In addition, instead of selecting a roster of Finalists that are very similar, judges will try to select a group of proposals that represent a diverse range of approaches.
Impact on climate change (for example, for mitigation actions, the amount of greenhouse gas emission reductions or for adaptation actions, the extent to which the actions counteract the effects of climate change) and desirability of other impacts (e.g. economic, social, lifestyle)
Presentation quality. Proposals that are well-presented will be favored over those that aren't. Presentation quality includes how well written a proposal is, how well it uses graphics or other visual elements, and how compelling are its artistic representations of possible future worlds (if any).
Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented.
Judges will evaluate proposals, and deliberate as a group to select the Semi-Finalists, Finalists, Winners, and possibly other awardee(s) at their discretion. Judgments of desirability are also made in the final stage of the contest, by the Climate CoLab community through popular vote, and by the Judges through their selection of the Judges' Choice winner(s).
Top proposals in each contest will be awarded...
Judges’ Choice Award -- Two proposals* will be selected by the Judges to receive the Judges' Choice-- one project, and one practice.
Popular Choice Award – Received the most votes during the public voting period.
The Judges’ Choice Award and Popular Choice Award Winners will be invited to MIT (see prior Climate CoLab Conferences), join the Climate CoLab winners’ alumni, and be eligible for the $10,000 Grand Prize—to be selected from among the winners across contests.
All award Winners and Finalists will receive wide recognition and platform visibility from MIT Climate CoLab. Climate CoLab or its collaborators may offer additional awards or recognition at their discretion.
* Judges’ Choice Award(s) are allocated at the Judging panel’s discretion. In rare cases, the Judges may choose not to select awardees.
Resources for Proposal Authors
- Anair, D. & Mahmassani, A. (2012). State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings across the United States. Union of Concerned Scientists.
- Brewer, T.L. (2017). Black Carbon Problems in Transportation: Technological Solutions and Governmental Policy Solutions. MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research Working Paper Series. Retrieved from http://ceepr.mit.edu/publications/working-papers/665.
- Eltis. (2012). City Database. Eltis. Retrieved from http://www.eltis.org/mobility-plans/city-database.
- European Commission. (2017). Reducing Emissions from Transport. European Commission. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/transport_en.
- Facanha, C., Blumberg, K., & Miller, J. (2012). Global Transportation Energy and Climate Roadmap. International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). Retrieved from http://www.theicct.org/global-transportation-energy-and-climate-roadmap.
- Gorham, R. (2017). Motorization and its Discontects. The World Bank. Retrieved from http://blogs.worldbank.org/transport/category/topics/climate-change.
- International Energy Agency. (2016). World Energy Outlook: 2016. International Energy Agency. Retrieved from http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/world-energy-outlook-2016---excerpt---water-energy-nexus.html.
- Irigoyen, J.L. (2015). Transforming Transportation 2015: Turning Momentun Into Action. The World Bank. Retrieved from http://blogs.worldbank.org/transport/transforming-transportation-2015-turning-momentum-action .
- Nealer, R., Reichmuth, D., Anair, D. (2015). Land Transport and How to Unlock Investment in Support of "Green Growth”. Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved from http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/11/Cleaner-Cars-from-Cradle-to-Grave-full-report.pdf.
- PPMC. (2016). Common Messages on Transport, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change. Paris Process on Mobility and Climate. Retrieved from http://www.ppmc-transport.org/common-messages-on-transport-sustainable-development-and-climate-change/.
- The World Bank. (2012). Urban Transport and Climate Change. The World Bank. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/08/14/urban-transport-and-climate-change.
- UNECE. (2013). Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for International Transport Networks. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Retrieved from http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp5/publications/climate_change_2014.pdf.
- UNECE. (n.d.). Climate Change and Sustainable Transport. UNECE. Retrieved from http://www.unece.org/?id=9890.
- UNECE. (n.d.). Climate Change and Sustainable Transport. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Retrieved from http://www.unece.org/?id=9890.
- United Nations. (n.d.). Sustainable Transport. UNSustainable Development Knowledge Platform. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sustainabletransport.
- UNSG High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport. (n.d.). Mobilizing Sustainable Transport for Development. United Nations. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/2375Mobilizing%20Sustainable%20Transport.pdf