For more than a decade, the concept of sustainable transportation has been used in oder to develop transportation systems that are more energy efficient, better adapted to serve all of society and less harmful to the environment.

The problem of climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have emphasised even more the need for greener transportation systems.

The Centre for Sustainable Transportation in Canada has defined sustainable transportation as:

 

A sustainable transportation system is one that:

- allows the basic access needs of individuals and societies to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health, and with equity within and between generations.
- is affordable, operates efficiently, offers choices of transport mode, and supports a vibrant economy.
- limits emissions and waste within the planet's ability to absorb them, minimizes consumption on non-renewable resources, reuses and recycles its components, and minimizes the use of land and the production on noise. (Source: The Centre for Sustainable Transportation)

Principles of Sustainable Transportation

Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has presented a series of principles for sustainable transportation that can be summarized as follows:

1- People are entitled to reasonable access to other people, places, goods and services.
2- Nation states and the transportation community must strive to ensure social, interregional and inter-generational equity, meeting the basic transportation-related needs of all people including women, the poor, the rural, and the disabled.
3- Transportation systems should be designed and operated in a way that protects the health (physical, mental and social well-being) and safety of all people, and enhances the quality of life in communities.
4- Transportation systems must make efficient use of land and other natural resources while ensuring the preservation of vital habitats and other requirements for maintaining biodiversity
5- Sustainable transportation systems must be cost effective. If adjustment costs are incurred in the transition to more sustainable transportation systems they should be equitably shared, just as current costs should be more equitably shared. (OECD International Conference, Vancouver Canada, 24-27 March 1996)

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Challenge

There are numerous obstacles to the realisation of sustainable transportation. In the last decades, transportation of people and goods has been ever increasing and this has caused an explosion of transportation infrastructure development and of transportation systems themselves (mostly individual transportation). This has had a severe impact on the environment, society and the economy.

Transportation and Climate Change

As mentioned previously, climate change is caused by an increase in greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. The most abundant greenhouse gas is carbon dioxyde (CO2). In Canada, transportation accounts for the single most important source of CO2 production (Natural Resources Canada). Small vehicles alone representent 11% of our CO2 production. This is a result of 17 millions vehicles in Canada, each consuming an average of 2000 litres of gasoline per year. For every litre of gasoline, approximately 2.4 kilograms of CO2 are released into the atmosphere.

Multiplying these numbers together results in a huge amount of CO2 released per year. This is why efforts are currently being deployed by organizations and the Canadian governement in order to find ways of reducing amounts of carbon dioxyde produced by vehicles. One approach is to look at driving behaviours and encouraging those that result in fuel consumption savings.

Small behaviour changes that save on gas and thus on CO2 production could become very important if they are adopted by a large portion of the population. If every vehicle owner in Canada were to reduce idling time by 5 minutes per day for example, we could save approximately 1.9 millions litres of gasoline (source : Natural Resources Canada)!

In the following section of this web site, "what you can do", you will find many examples of small behaviour changes that can help reduce vehicle emissions considerably. Some are simple and easy to adopt, others require more effort.

Start with behaviour changes that are easy and adopt others once you have succeeded with the first. Together we can make a difference!

References

The Centre for Sustainable Transportation, 2003. http://www.cstctd.org/CSThomepage.htm

Towards Sustainable Transportation: Sustainable Transportation Principles, 2003. http://www.ecoplan.org/vancouvr/stprincp.htm

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