Monday, November 29

“What if we ditch cars?”: Cop26 leaders urged to dream big | Cop26

GRAMGovernments and automakers have joined in the Glasgow climate talks around new targets to dramatically increase the use of electric vehicles. But activists at the summit have urged a more fundamental question: what would happen if we abandoned all kinds of cars?

With the new goal of phasing out new gasoline and diesel car sales over 20 years, dozens of countries and auto companies have used Cop26 to celebrate the rise of electric vehicles as a way to cut global warming emissions. .

“This is a massive transformation,” said Omar Alghabra, Transport Minister of Canada, one of 24 countries that signed the new pledge. Alghabra spoke Wednesday to a panel of government officials and business leaders at Glasgow’s sprawling Convention Center, a multi-colored Envision Formula E racing car perched in the foreground on a podium. “We see this as a great opportunity for job creation,” he added.

Cynthia Williams, manager of environmental policy at Ford, one of the automakers that joined the deal, called for government support to help spread a new wave of electric vehicles around the world.

“We need these vehicles now, we need actions that match our ambitions,” he said. “One of the key things that we will need to accelerate the electrification revolution is incentives. We need infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. This is necessary so that there are more people in the vehicles, leaving no one behind. “

While this grand vision would cut emissions – transportation is responsible for about a fifth of the world’s carbon pollution, and electric vehicles are much cleaner than fossil fuel-powered cars – climate activists have called on governments to rethink the role of automobiles more deeply.

In a series of protests on Wednesday, activists called for more funding for public transportation and walking and cycling routes, arguing that the promised “green revolution” away from cars during the Covid pandemic has not materialized in most cities.

Nancy Henderson, a protester who lives in Glasgow, said cycling flourished during the lockdown, but many people have returned to cars because they do not feel safe in traffic.

“That is a problem with electric cars, people will still feel insecure with them,” he said. “It doesn’t really change the problem of congestion and the number of cars on our streets. Being electric does not change the ruin of cars in our cities, we are still isolated in our small stand, without communicating, without meeting other people ”.

Henderson said many Glasgow residents resented the smart card public transport passes given to Cop26 delegates, which allow unlimited use of trains and buses during the conference. “No one else around here has had one of those smart cards,” he said. “You marginalize people when you don’t have good public transportation.”

Environmental critics of electric cars argue that they still clog cities and are dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. While far less polluting than traditional cars, lithium is mined in often controversial circumstances for batteries used by electric vehicles, and dust from car brakes and tires still gives off some amount of air pollution.

In another pro-cycling protest on Wednesday, the day designated to focus on transportation in the Cop26 talks, activists held signs that read “Electric cars are a cop” and “Car, car, car, blah, BLA bla”.

Iona Shepherd, from the groups GoBike and Pedal on Parliament that organized the protest, noted that “active travel is not even on the table for discussions” at the climate summit.

“At the conference, electric cars are taking center stage, while our sustainable form of transportation, by far the cheapest and easiest way to reduce transportation emissions, doesn’t even get a mention,” he said.

“We need the police to push through better investment and political will for sustainable transport modes if they take seriously the Paris agreement to limit warming to 1.5 ° C.”

The number of electric vehicles is still small compared to gasoline and diesel cars worldwide, but sales have increased in recent years and have exploded after the pandemic outbreak. Global sales expected to exceed 5 million this year, an increase of more than 80% during the last decade.

Electric vehicle purchases in China, the US and Europe, the top three automotive markets, increased 160% in the first half of 2021 from a year earlier, aided by enthusiastic backing from political leaders. Joe Biden is pushing for half of all sales in the U.S. to be electric by 2030 and hopes to sign a huge spending bill next week that will funnel billions of dollars in rebates to consumers to buy new ones. emission-free cars.

This strategy should be rethought, say activists outside the summit. “While we recognize the important contribution electric vehicles will make to reducing carbon emissions in the future, we need to reduce emissions now,” said Paul Tuohy, CEO of the Campaign for Better Transport.

“Persuading more people to switch at least some trips from the car to public transportation will have immediate benefits for the climate.”

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