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Electric vehicle and 'compact’ city combo could reach emissions targets - Reuters

As electric vehicles gain ground globally, researchers say they need to be combined with efforts to make cities more walkable and bikeable to swiftly curb climate change.

Getting more people into electric vehicles needs to happen alongside a shift to more "compact" cities where fewer car journeys are needed if governments want to stave off the most dire effects of global warming, researchers said on Thursday.

Curbing urban transport emissions is a narrow but critical piece in the broader fight against climate change, as cities from Paris to Jakarta re-orient their streets to promote public transit use and bicycle and walking paths.

"If politicians think electrification is going to save the day... and everybody's going to go out and buy an electric vehicle, it's just not going to work," said Heather Thompson, CEO of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

The research looked at four scenarios for transport: "business as usual," massive electrification of public and private vehicles by 2050, a major shift in cities to non-car transport, and a "high EV + shift" combination.

The "EV + shift" scenario was the only one whose estimated 2020-2050 emissions were in line with targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which aims to limit global temperature rise to "well under" 2 degrees Celsius.

The key is minimizing the overall number of vehicles on the road and electrifying the rest, said Thompson, whose nonprofit group developed and released the research in concert with the University of California, Davis.


Urban passenger transport represents about 10% of the world's climate-changing emissions - but those emissions have been increasing steadily as private vehicles become easier to acquire in emerging economies, the study found.

Researchers acknowledged that putting into place a large-scale "EV + shift" combination would require a "vast global effort," likening it to the construction of the U.S. interstate highway system in the 1950s.

But the study cataloged examples of cities promoting effective land use and public transportation options that others could emulate.

Mexico City, for instance, features both a viable public bikeshare system and policies that disincentivize or reduce parking availability.

In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Portland has pushed zoning laws encouraging high-density development - which makes walking to services easier - and Seattle has worked to ensure residents have close access to high-frequency bus routes.

The study pointed out that Paris decreased car travel by almost 50% in 30 years by promoting other options, while Jakarta in 2004 opened a mass transit system that drew nearly a million daily riders pre-pandemic.

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