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Navigating the road to sustainable transportation

Last month, we wrote about the urgent need to decarbonise the built environment, which contributes nearly 40% of global carbon emissions. Now, we turn our attention to another major emitter: the transportation industry, responsible for roughly one-fifth of global emissions.

Road transport accounts for approximately three-quarters of transport emissions, including passenger vehicles (cars and buses) and trucks carrying freight. The aviation industry also plays a significant role, encompassing not just planes themselves but the associated travel of passengers and extensive logistics involved.

While individual actions like switching to an electric vehicle are important, the uptake of EVs has been slower than expected, and the effects of a large-scale shift may not be felt if vehicles are underutilised and embodied emissions are still substantial.

In contrast, high-mileage vehicle operations like heavy goods vehicles, taxis, and public buses, can yield considerable emissions reductions. Intercity coaches, covering vast distances with multiple passengers, exemplify the potential impact of efficient electrification. Meaningful progress requires concerted efforts from enterprises and governments, rather than passing the onus to individual consumers.

Electric vehicles offer promise, but hydrogen innovation is also gaining traction, particularly for heavy goods vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles offer distinct advantages, including longer ranges and faster refueling times, and are more suitable for applications where weight is a critical factor, such as long-haul transport.

While individual choices matter, systemic changes driven by industry and policy are essential for achieving significant emissions reductions in the transportation sector. Collaboration between stakeholders, along with continued investment in both EV and hydrogen technologies, will be crucial in transitioning towards a more sustainable transport system.

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