Making Smart Mobility Sustainable

Artist: Daniel Goldfarb

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Third experts’ workshop in the event series on the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy – Perspectives from Germany and Israel.

 

On December 17th, 2020, The Israel Public Policy Institute (IPPI) hosted the experts’ workshop “Making Smart Mobility Sustainable” in collaboration with the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Heinrich Böll Foundation Tel Aviv, and with support from the the Climate Fund of the German Federal Foreign Office, represented by the German Embassy in Tel Aviv.

With the transportation sector responsible for approximately 23% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions, and the number of private cars set to exponentially grow in the coming decades, it is often depicted as the “problem child” within the global sustainability community. In the search for solutions on ways to accelerate the decarbonization of the transport sector, smart and shared mobility is often depicted as key. Thus, in recent years, ‘smart mobility’ has become a popular buzzword encompassing a wide array of innovative initiatives in the field of transportation, many of which carry the promise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Yet, while smart mobility has the potential to play a key role in climate change mitigation, evidence suggests that “smart” does not always translate to “sustainable”. Against this backdrop, the workshop set out to explore the potential of smart and shared mobility in reducing carbon emissions, as well as pathways to leverage this potential.

The workshop brought together 54 experts from Germany and Israel, including academics, policymakers, and representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) to create cross-sector dialogue and exchange of insights on possible avenues to leverage the potential of smart and shared mobility to also support sustainable development.

Amir Zalzberg, Head of Transportation at the Ministry for Environmental Protection in Israel, opened the event by stressing the relevance of the workshop in light of the Israeli government’s current efforts to drive forward a national decarbonization strategy.

 

Panel 1: Governing Smart Mobility Initiatives

The first presentation explored the role of governance and the importance of effective policy approaches at the nexus of technology and transportation in order to decarbonize the transport sector.

Dr. Felix Creutzig, Lead Researcher at Mercator Research Institute for Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and IPPI Research Fellow, centered his presentation around his IPPI policy paper “Making Smart Mobility Sustainable. Dr. Creutzig, who was also a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, stressed that tech entrepreneurs often lack the holistic view with respect to the role of technology in the framework of the societal transition to a zero-carbon economy since their primary concerns are commercially focused.

His presentation provided a comprehensive assessment of shared mobility options by estimating marginal CO2 emissions of various mobility options. Dr. Creutzig underscored that high systemic efficiency in combination with high vehicle occupancy is a key determinant of low-carbon transportation. Moreover, he emphasizes that shared mobility will contribute to low-carbon emissions, only if it is carefully designed and focused on replacing private car trips and complementing instead of substituting public transportation.

The presentation was followed by a short Q&A. Gil Yaakov, Executive Director of Israeli NGO, 15 Minutes, asked what incentives should be introduced in the suburbs to push further with shared mobility? Creutzig suggested that subsidies should be given in the early stages, since currently, shared mobility has very low occupancy in the suburbs.

Julius Jöhrens, from ifeu – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research continued the workshop with his presentation on technology neutrality. The presentation was built around Jöhrens’ research questioning how to decide which technology is a smart choice towards sustainable transportation. He noted that there is a general unclear public discourse on what “technology openness” and “technology neutrality” mean.

 

Part 2: Smart Mobility in Israel

The second panel discussion centered around Israel’s smart mobility strategy. Each presentation provided an insider look into government efforts, either government companies or initiatives, that exposed a clear vision for the future of the Israeli transportation sector.

Daniel Zucker, from Israel’s National Smart Mobility Initiative at the Prime Minister’s Office, presented the 10 year-old government project, the “Smart Mobility Initiative”. The project’s goal is to turn Israel into a center of knowledge and industry best practices in the field of smart mobility, to support green growth through policy-making and regulatory initiatives, and to foster international collaboration to boost innovation.

Erik Shriker, from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, presented the “Shared EV Initiative” case study conducted in Haifa and Netanya, in 2018. In line with previous speakers, Shriker emphasized the transportation sector’s responsibility for the highest level of GHG emissions. According to him, solutions will come from fostering the shared vehicle system. Results revealed that there was no age specificity among users and there was indeed a successful reduction of car ownership and usage (especially for those with a 2nd car). However, it turned out that the service was not fully able to support public transportation, and it couldn’t reduce the usage of parking zones. For a way forward, Shriker recommended that such government-funded projects should provide free access for data collection (for public and research use), that focuses more on how shared mobility can complement public transportation. He also emphasized that the involvement of municipalities is important (i.e. to manage charging stations) and that similar projects should improve on the vehicle’s occupancy for better efficiency.

In the open discussion part of the workshop, it was noted that in 2050, about 5.5 million vehicles are expected to be running in Israel. There seemed to be a common agreement, that a change of thinking is needed in order to promote efficient road usage and reduce emissions.

Ronit Purian, from Tel Aviv University, raised the challenge of data usage, stressing that an integrated data platform would be the way forward. On the same note, Felix Wagner, Ph.D. candidate at MCC and TU Munich, added that data, in the context of transport/mobility, contains personal and sometimes identifiable data pointing towards the German experience that has raised concerns around data privacy. In addition, Wagner said that by taking Germany’s case into consideration, Israel has an opportunity not to make the same mistakes that focused solely on smart mobility, and instead to aim for increasing occupancy in vehicles.

The workshop created meaningful discussions and exchanges around the theme of decarbonizing the transportation sector and marked the last event of the Beyond Carbon multi-stakeholder dialog series for 2020.

 

Speakers of the event:

  • Dr. Felix Creutzig, Lead Researcher at Mercator Research Institute for Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and IPPI Research Fellow
  • Hilla Haddad, VP for Strategy and Innovation at Netivei Israel – Israel’s National Transportation Infrastructure Company
  • Julius Jöhrens, ifeu – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
  • Erik Shriker, Ministry of Environmental Protection in Israel
  • Amir Zalzberg, Head of Transportation at the Ministry for Environmental Protection in Israel
  • Daniel Zucker, from Israel’s National Smart Mobility Initiative, Prime Minister’s Office

 

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