Policy Brief | A smooth ride to renewable energy – 7 actions for public transport to address emissions and air pollution

Policy Brief: A smooth ride to renewable energy

Shifting people to public transport that runs on renewable energy is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and improve local air quality. It is a fundamental solution to address both climate change and public health concerns.

However, the crucial link between renewables and public transport has been largely ignored. A variety of solutions exist for affordable, accessible and safe public transport to run on renewable energy. In many cases these solutions are ready to be implemented.

REN21 has partnered with UITP to publish a policy brief, A smooth ride to renewable energy: 7 actions for public transport to address emissions and air pollution by advancing renewables.

This brief proposes actions and solutions that can accelerate the path to achieve net zero and carbon neutral goals through the connection between renewable energy and public transport. This brief is for public transport authorities, public transport operators, urban planners and anyone interested in advancing renewables in public transport. Click here to download the brief

Public transport  that runs on renewables holds a huge potential for impact

The transport sector is the source of one-quarter of global energy-related CO2 emissions and one-third of final energy consumption. While renewables are advancing in the power sector, they are seriously lagging in the transport sector, only accounting for 3.4% of demand. Current efforts to reduce emissions cannot keep up with ever increasing transport-related emissions and the slow development of alternatives.

Cities are key to decarbonising transport. They are responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions, with transport and buildings being among the largest contributors. The sheer size and scale of cities can result in great impacts on CO2 emissions and public health. They have an important role in facilitating the shift to renewable-based public transport, in addition to improving walking and biking infrastructure.

Avoid-Shift-Improve: unlocking emissions reductions in urban transport. Advancing renewable energy in public transport is one puzzle piece in a wider action framework to support urban decarbonisation efforts. Alongside public transport, city governments have improved walking and cycling infrastructures to avoid and reduce the need for motorised transport. They have encouraged the shift to more efficient and less carbon-intense modes of transport, such as public transit. Renewable fuels and renewables-based electric vehicles have strengthened city efforts to improve transport system efficiency and vehicle technology.

Seven actions to advance renewables in public transport

The following seven actions by local and national governments can help to advance and scale up efforts of renewable energy in public transport. Local governments and public transport authorities must create plans that are adapted to the local resources, governance and market conditions.

These actions are detailed in the brief:

  1. Set ambitious targets for public transport and back them up with support policies
  2. Reinforce the business case with pilot and demonstration projects
  3. Create an enabling tax and regulatory environment at all levels
  4. Leverage public transport’s purchasing power and develop new business models
  5. Build back better through a green Covid-19 recovery
  6. Integrate renewables in urban carbon neutral planning
  7. Build capacity and skills for change

 Click here to download the brief

This policy brief was produced collaboratively by REN21 and UITP, with the support of the UITP Sustainable Development Committee.