Four challenges to address: a great opportunity!
Road mobility is one of the major factors of economic and social development. In the thirty years to come it will undergo the greatest evolution since its very beginnings at the end of the 19th century and its incredible growth in the second half of the 20th century. The world is entering a new era, one that is uncertain but full of promise.
Today three main trends are playing out that make this mutation inevitable:
Firstly demographic growth and unbridled urbanization, then intensive exploitation of the limited fossil energy resources and lastly the impact of human activities on the ecosystems and the atmosphere.
The global population has doubled in the last 40 years, going from 3 to 6 billion people. We have just passed the 7 billion mark and by 2050 we could be 9 billion on our planet Earth! Population and economic growth drive a growing demand for energy. The transport sector is directly concerned.
For how long can oil production continue to fuel this growth, even with the advent of non-conventional energies? At what economic cost? At what environmental cost? Road transport also has a role to play in reducing CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The general consensus to limit the average temperature rise, at the surface of the Earth, to 2°C compared with 2005 quite obviously implies a largely decarbonized mobility.
In addition, the global population is increasingly concentrated in vast agglomerations and today, more than half the world’s population is urban. Urban mobility is seriously hampered by traffic congestion and unwanted polluting emissions. On the other hand, can we remain impassive to the world’s unacceptable tally of over a million killed and 50 million injured every year on the world’s roads.
Therefore, sustainable road mobility must address four major challenges which are energy, climate, urbanization and road safety. We have solutions to achieve this.
Population and economic growth go hand in hand with an increased demand for energy. The road transport sector is one of the most directly concerned: for how much longer can oil production continue to meet this demand, even with the advent of non-conventional oil sources? And at what cost?
The reserves of oil and gas are not inexhaustible and they are concentrated in only certain regions of the world and some of these are politically unstable. Globally road transport depends almost exclusively (over 95 %) on petroleum and consumes over half the world’s petroleum production. In addition, fuel consumption continues to increase. New oil and gas fields are increasingly tough to exploit and they are often in hostile environments that are even more difficult than desert areas.
It is therefore absolutely necessary to diversify energy sources and to lower consumption without hampering mobility, and today this is possible.
The Earth’s climate is currently undergoing a very rapid warming linked to the emission of greenhouse gases and transport plays its part in this. Wherever they are produced these emissions, principally CO2, contribute to global warming. To limit the average temperature rise to 2°C compared with 2005 will mean reducing CO2 emissions by half by 2050. To achieve this the emissions from cars will have to be no higher than 60 g of CO2/km, which is technically possible but...
Demographic growth and unbridled urbanization are imposing an unprecedented mutation in our modes of mobility: more than half the world’s population is now urban hence the importance of the progress to be achieved in abating noise and lowering polluting emissions in cities. Indeed, unwanted emissions from internal combustion engines can reach preoccupying levels. On the other hand, urban and suburban congestion is in complete contradiction to the notion of mobility. Congestion wastes time but it also increases fuel consumption, and associated local and global pollution. From a health point of view, the mix of traffic in cities contributes to accidents and noise continues to be the number one nuisance for urbanites.
Developing electric vehicles and improving traffic flow, in particular with an extension of inter-mobility and connected vehicles, are priorities for achieving an efficient and agreeable urban mobility.
From challenges to action