Travel and transportation changes needed to reduce greenhouse gas levels

Road transport one of biggest offenders for emissions

The road transport sector is a major source of   air pollution, but on the plus side, more and more people are beginning to factor in the cost and health benefits associated with  cycling. Photograph: Reuters

The road transport sector is a major source of air pollution, but on the plus side, more and more people are beginning to factor in the cost and health benefits associated with cycling. Photograph: Reuters

 

Ireland needs huge changes in travel and transportation habits if it is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, according to Ireland’s environment 2016 report.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report identifies road transport as one of the biggest offenders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and rather than reducing emissions to reach our 2020 EU targets, the levels are expected to rise by at least 10 per cent in that timeframe.

The transport sector also accounts for 12 per cent of air pollution and is a major source of noise pollution.

The continuing rise in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector is mainly due to higher numbers of vehicles on our roads due to the economic recovery. The private car remains the dominant mode of transport in Ireland, accounting for 74 per cent of all journeys. Latest figures point to over two million cars owned in Ireland, double the numbers owned 20 years ago.

And, the dream of widespread uptake of electric vehicle has yet to become a reality with only about 1,700 electric vehicles on the road, instead of the expectation of 50,000 by now.

Convert to electric

The EPA report acknowledges that getting people out of their cars and onto electric trains, trams and indeed bicycles will not be easy – particularly with large numbers living in low density urban and rural areas.

According to a recent survey of commuters in the Greater Dublin Area, time is the main factor influencing the mode of transport used to get to work, school or college.

Yet, more and more people are beginning to factor in cost and health benefits associated with public transport, cycling and walking. The success of the Luas trams in Dublin and the expansion of the Dublin Bike scheme to Cork, Galway and Limerick are signs of this. The Dublin scheme is one of the most successful in the world with 4.1 million journeys taken last year .

In terms of transportation of goods, the report suggests the use of longer trains and the use of carbon or tax credits for shippers to incentivise rail over road. The EPA report also states that to build an efficient sustainable transport system requires a more proactive and systemic approach to land use and transport planning than currently exists.