Editors Note: The
following information was provided by the Sustainable Mobility sectorial
initiative of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development,
a project whose purpose is to envision mobility systems for people,
goods and services that are sustainable on a worldwide basis.
The Sustainable Mobility Project, launched in April 2000 by the
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is motivated
by the dilemma facing future mobility: on the one hand, mobility
is essential to modern civilization and human needs; mobility systems
are facilitators of economic activities and human relations. Mobility
literally makes modern economies possible. On the other hand, there
is a growing understanding that the worlds continuing and
growing demand for mobility cannot be met simply by expanding todays
means of transportation.
The project intends to point the way to mobility systems which are
more efficient, more equitable and less environmentally and socially
disruptive, while preserving the benefits that these mobility systems
Improved mobility of persons and goods has been a fundamental precondition
to the standard of living now enjoyed by the vast majority of individuals
living in the developed world. Improving mobility opportunities
is, likewise, a precondition to enabling those living in the developing
world to attain a similar standard of living.
Past improvements in mobility have been purchased at a large cost
to society. Projections of the social and environmental costs of
achieving the mobility opportunities sought by those not now enjoying
them indicate that they will dwarf those incurred to date. It is
unlikely that present levels of mobility in the developed world
and the desired levels sought by the developing world are possible
under a business as usual mindset. In short, the worlds
present mobility trajectory is unsustainable.
Under the auspices of the WBCSD, members of the Sustainable Mobility
Project have joined together to identify how to address this dilemma.
These members are all companies whose long-term survival depends
on doing so. However, they also realize that they cannot make mobility
sustainable by themselves. The task requires more talent and resources
than any one of themor, indeed, the entire groupcan
The objective of the project is to establish a vision of sustainable
mobility in 2030 and various pathways for getting there. The project
covers all aspects of sustainability (social, environmental and
economic); all modes of mobility (air, sea and land transportation);
and all regions of the world, developing and developed countries
alike. It takes a global perspective, because the challenges are
global, and solutions will depend on cooperation among governments,
business, consumers and other elements of civil society.
The 12 core-group companies of the project are: BP, DaimlerChrysler,
Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Michelin, Norsk Hydro,
Renault, Shell, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The WBCSD Sustainable Mobility Project is unique in a number of
ways: First, the project is unique in its membership. Many of the
toughest issues facing the world in making mobility sustainable
require the actions of multiple industriesas well as actions
by governments and the public. The combination of motor vehicle
manufacturers, energy companies, and materials and component suppliers
brings a unique breadth of experience and range of capabilities
to the search for sustainable mobility.
Second, the project is unique in its scope. It aims at nothing less
than producing a vision for achieving sustainable mobility that
would incorporate all modes of transport, the transport of goods
as well as persons, and transport in the developing as well as in
the developed world. Such a scope is necessary if the range of issues
required to make mobility sustainable are to be understood.
Third, the project is unique in its process. It is making an extraordinary
effort to reach out to an extremely wide range of stakeholders,
both to assure that the perspective of its sponsors is sufficiently
broad and to communicate its message.
The project has been organized into three phases:
One: An analysis of current patterns of mobility and
their sustainability. This phase culminated in the Mobility 2001
reporta snapshot of world mobility at the turn of the century,
published in October 2001.
Two: A scoping study to determine the framework and processes
for development of the projects main report. This phase ended
with the adoption of goals and establishment of action teams with
specific assignments to respond to the grand challenges
posed in Mobility 2001.
Three: The main phase of the project will culminate in
a final report, Sustainable Mobility 2030, scheduled for completion
by December 2003.
The WBCSD Sustainable Mobility Project is only about mid-way through
its scheduled lifetime. However, it already has rung up a number
of important accomplishments:
> First, it has assembled
a group of firms that, though competitors, must cooperate in unique
ways if mobility is to become sustainable. It has helped these competitors
to move beyond their parochial concerns and develop a shared understanding
of what sustainable mobility means and what it may require to achieve
> Second, its Mobility 2001
report, which is both comprehensive and understandable to the layperson,
explores mobility-related challenges that go well beyond the business
interests of the group of firms that sponsored it. Other reports
are addressed primarily to members of the technical community. Mobility
2001 is addressed to the public at large. It explains in clear ways
the challenges facing mobility.
> Third, it has developed
a broad plan of work, based upon the findings of Mobility 2001,
to produce a vision of how mobility can be made sustainable and
describing various possible pathways for doing so. This will result
in a road map to the future both for the sponsoring companies and
for the other stakeholders that must be part of any to make mobility
Worldwide Mobility: Key Findings
The ground-breaking Mobility 2001 study identifies major threats
to mobilitys continued sustainability as well as pathways
to the systems that will address societal, environmental and economic
concerns. It was prepared by a group of researchers from MIT and
Charles River Associates. The following information details key
findings included in the Mobility 2001 Executive Summary Report.
Effective and efficient mobility systems
are essential to modern civilization.
> Mobility is an essential
human need. Human survival and societal interaction depend in profound
ways on the ability to move people and goods. Efficient mobility
systems are essential facilitators of economic developmentcities
could not exist and global trade could not occur without systems
to transport people and goods cheaply and efficiently.
Mobility systems need to become more efficient,
more equitable and less environmentally and socially disruptive.
> Mobility systems currently
are significant contributors to congestion, deaths, injuries from
accidents, climate change, resource exhaustion, public health problems
created by air pollution and noise, and ecosystem collapse. Mobility
systems may also perpetuate social inequities by offering a very
limited range of choices to the vulnerable sections of society,
such as the poor and the elderly.
Significant improvements have been achieved
in transportation vehicles as a result of technological improvement.
> Automobiles, trucks, railroads
and aircraft have become more efficient, cleaner, safer and more
recyclable. Though technology has enabled reduction in transportation-related
emissions of pollutants, as well as significant improvements in
fuel-efficiency, these improvements have been largely offset by
slow fleet turnover, lack of proper maintenance, changes in the
mix of light-duty vehicles and increased driving.
> Increased adoption of fuel-efficient
diesel engines in passenger cars and light trucks, and the development
and deployment of hybrid electric vehicles, offer the promise of
further improvements in light-duty vehicle energy efficiency. Transportation
is a major user of energy and overwhelmingly dependent on petroleum-based
energy. Trains powered by externally supplied electricity are the
principal current exception. Though presently quite limited, the
use of technologies based on electricity and hydrogen-powered fuel
cells and hybrids would be other important exceptions.
Urban areas of the developed-world have
become dependent on the automobile.
In virtually all developed-world urban areas, the automobile plays
the dominant role in providing urban mobility. Auto ownership and
use has grown substantially over the last 50 years. This, in turn,
has facilitated suburbanization and lower density development, damaging
public transports competitiveness. Though public transport
remains important, especially in Europe and Japan, its share of
total developed-world passenger miles has been decreasing almost
> Emissions from motor vehicles
account for much of the air pollution in urban areas and for the
majority of global transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
> In the next two decades,
aging populations in Japan, the United States and Europe will create
a significant pool of older people with mobility needs that the
current automobile-dependent system will be ill-equipped to serve.
> Congestion appears to be
increasing. Though reliable cross-national data are hard to find,
there are indications that levels of congestion are being perceived
as increasingly disruptive by the general public.
> A range of strategies is
being tried to offset the adverse impacts of motor vehicles. These
include traffic management strategies, promoting the increased use
of public transport, the use of Intelligent Transportation Systems
to increase the capacity of existing highway infrastructure, and
real-time pricing of transportation facilities.
> Development of new highway
infrastructure to meet increases in consumer demand for mobility
is extremely difficult, in large part because of concerns related
to the environmental and social disruptions caused by transport.
In many places, the existing infrastructure is also deteriorating
because of inadequate maintenance.
There is a large and rapidly growing unmet
demand for expanded mobility in the cities of the developing world.
The developing world is urbanizing and motorizing at a very rapid
rate. Cities, such as the megalopolises of India and China that
are already supporting a large fraction of the worlds population,
are growing and motorizing so rapidly that they have not had the
time or the money to build new infrastructure or to adapt to new
technologies. Further, the geographic spread of urban areas in the
developing world is undermining the ability of public transport
systems to provide the services on which most developing-world urban
dwellers rely for the bulk of their mobility needs. As a result:
> Mobility, already poor
for most developing-world urban dwellers, is declining. Pollution,
much of it transport-related, is at extremely high levels and is
growing worse. Transport-related carbon dioxide emissions in the
developing world are growing rapidly and will surpass developed-world
carbon dioxide emissions in little more than a decade if present
trends continue. Deaths and injuries from transport-related accidents
occur at substantially higher rates than in the developed world.
> Despite growing demand,
the development of new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing
facilities are difficult, often due to a lack of finances and financing
> Some developing-world urban
areas are achieving success in dealing with these problems. Curitiba,
Brazil, is a prime example. Even more than in the developed world,
however, replicating these successes is proving extremely difficult.
Intercity travel is growing rapidly, especially
air travel, which has a disproportionately large influence on global
Intercity passenger travel accounts for a relatively small share
of total trips but for a much larger and growing share of total
passenger-kilometers. Air transport accounts for a rapidly growing
share of intercity travel in both the developed world (where it
is already significant) and the developing world. In Japan and Europe,
high-speed rail plays a significant and growing role in intercity
travel (four percent of all passenger kilometers in Japan and about
one percent in Europe). As a result:
> Although many airports
are becoming overcrowded, citizen opposition prevents their expansion
or the construction of new airports. Airport noise is a perennial
significant concern. In addition, airport-related emissions of pollutants,
such as nitrogen oxides, are attracting growing attention in many
> Air transportation is currently
responsible for between eight and 12 percent of transport-related
carbon emissions. Since these emissions occur at high altitudes,
they have a disproportionate influence on global climate compared
to the same emissions on the earths surface. Since air travel
is projected to increase rapidly, the importance of aircraft-related
greenhouse gas emissions is expected to grow.
> High-speed rail shows the
potential of providing an alternative to short air trips (less than
500 km). However, high-speed rail needs significant investments
and can compete successfully with air and auto alternatives only
in a set of particular favorable economic environments.
Efficient freight systems are essential
to the functioning of modern society but are an unexpectedly large
source of carbon emissions
The ability to transport large volumes of goods long distances at
very low costs enables cities to exist, farmers to find markets
for their crops, firms to reap the advantages of specialized production,
and consumers to have access to a vast variety of goods at affordable
prices. As a result:
> Although freight transportation
is relatively energy efficient, it uses an estimated 43 percent
of all transportation energy. Improvements in the emission characteristics
of freight-hauling vehicles are being offset by the growth in freight
movements, particularly growth in high-emission truck and air freight
movements, often at the expense of lower-emission rail movements.
> Vehicles transporting freight
also contribute significantly to emissions of conventional pollutants,
greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion, noise and accidents.
Further, freight-handling facilities are major users of land, especially
in and near cities.
The Mobility 2001 report concludes with a set of grand challenges
that, being successfully met, would go a very long way to assure
that mobility is sustainable. The Sustainable Mobility Project has
adopted these challenges as a baseline for its future work. The
grand challenges come in three different groups:
1. Challenges that stakeholders
expect industry to take a major role in addressing because of industrys
special expertise and/or the impacts of specific products:
> Adapt the personal use
motor vehicle to the future accessibility needs/requirements of
the developed and developing worlds (capacity, performance, emissions,
fuel use, safety, materials requirements, waste, ownership structure,
> Drastically reduce carbon
emissions from the transportation sector, which may require phasing
carbon out of transitioning from petroleum-based fuels to a portfolio
of other energy sources.
2. Challenges to sustainable
mobility that cannot be credibly addressed without the significant
involvement of other modes:
> Provide accessibility for
those not having access to personal motor vehicles in both the developed
and developing worlds; provide a reasonable alternative for those
who do have access to personal motor vehicles i.e. reinvent
the relationship between public transport and the private car.
> Resolve the competition
for resources and access to infrastructure between personal and
freight transportation in the urbanized areas of the developed and
> Anticipate congestion in
inter-city transportation and develop a portfolio of mobility options
for people and freight.
3. Challenges that transcend
any one mode or region:
> Reinvent the
process of planning, developing, financing and managing mobility
> Improve institutional capability
to identify, build consensus about how to solve, and implement approaches
that promote sustainable mobility.
> Ensure that our transportation
systems continue to play their essential role in economic development
and, through the mobility they provide, serve essential human need
and enhance the quality of life.
Though each of these grand challenges is formidable
in its own right, there is another challenge, perhaps the most formidable
of all, which must be overcome if any of them are to be overcome.
This is the challenge of creating the institutional capacity to
address complex, long-term issues like these; the ability to develop
consensus about significant changes in the structure and deployment
of mobility systems across the world; and successfully designing,
implementing and monitoring such changes.
If they rely on current institutional capabilities, both the developed
and developing worlds will find it nearly impossible to develop
consensus around how such issues ought to be addressed, develop
the plans to implement the consensus solutions and carry these plans
through to fruition. Though technology almost certainly will play
a major role in addressing each of the grand challenges,
it is likely that limits on institutional capacity, not limits on
technology, will determine the speed with which the challenges will
be addressedor whether they get addressed at all.
For more information about the Sustainable Mobility sector project
of the World Business Council for Sustainable Developmentor
other sector initiativescontact the WBCSD at: 4, chemin de Conches,
CH-1231 Conches-Geneva, Switzerland; (41 22) 839 31 00; fax: 41 22)
839 31 31; www.sustainablemobility.org.