How do Belgium’s biggest cities fare in terms of sustainable mobility? Not great.
Greenpeace recently commissioned a study to the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy to perform an analysis of sustainable mobility of major Belgian cities (full report in English). The objective was to identify the areas that required most attention so that newly elected local governments can make significant progress towards Belgium’s commitment to the Paris agreements.
The current mandate for local authorities goes from 2018 to 2024 and already covers half the period leading to the Paris Agreement’s commitment of reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by at least 40% relative to 1990’s levels. Transport accounts for around one fifth of GHG in Belgium and will need to be significantly reduced to meet the target.
Below is a summary of the results, with a total score over 100 and 5 scores over 20: Public transports, Road safety, Air quality, Mobility management and Active mobility. Surprisingly, Brussels was on the top of the ranking, barely making it past Antwerp and second only to Ghent. With a couple of particularly bad scores for Charleroi and Liège in terms of road safety and active mobility set aside, all cities seem to face similar challenges. In fact, the recommended measures are nearly identical for all cities: transform the current low-emission area into an ultra-low emission area to improve air quality and protect the climate, discourage car use, for example by increasing the price of parking or implementing a traffic plan, and invest in safe bicycle paths and improve public transport.
There are quite a few ways for these measures to be achieved, and the Greens’ excellent scores gives hope that at we will make some progress towards them. But it will also require a change in habits: most traffic is caused by commuting, most cars have a single occupier yet 62% of trips are under 5km. Cars also occupy 70% of public space (roads and parking) and cause most of Brussels’ air pollution which causes the premature death of some 682 people each year.
We have reached a point where meeting the Paris Agreement emission reduction, necessary to avoid a 2 degree increase in temperature by the end of the century, needs commitment not only from elected officials but also from every citizen. While authorities have the main role to play in improving public transport and air quality, it is within nearly everyone’s reach to switch to more sustainable transportation methods.