(We will be publishing a series of Blogs from Marrakech by Ian Lumley giving his impressions of the event).

For more liveable cities - act on urban mobility NOW!

Sunday was not a day off at COP22. While the main venue shut up for the day, there was a choice of immersive individual issue focused conferences in the Marrakech Hotels.

With this month’s EPA report showing Irish transport emissions increasing 4.2% and overall emissions by 3.7% in 2015 over the previous year’s level, I went for an all-day session on urban transport “For more liveable cities - act on urban mobility NOW!

This event was put on by the PPMC (Paris Process on Mobility and Climate) initiative which had a programme of transport events during the previous week many of which I had attended.

With the potential for real emission cuts in aviation, shipping and road freight so challenging, it was so positive to spend a day seeing achievable solutions for big cities. For years transport conferences have presented optimistic stories of cities like Curitiba in Brazil or Grenoble in France, where the head of transport gave an inspiring update presentation. The aim of the day was to show that the lessons from these pioneers can be applied globally, and that that technical and financial capacity is available to achieve that.

The speakers ranged from business figures making a commitment to decarbonisation and alternative technology, the World Bank, International Energy Agency, and World Health Organisation and NGOs, to research institutes and those involved directly in city transport and land use planning and technical and engineering research. There was an impressive clarity as to what actions major cities need to achieve to meet the level of decarbonisation required by the Paris Agreement target.

The main points which emerged during the day were:

  • Integration with land use and planning is key to a successful city. Barcelona has a fifth of the transport emissions of Atlanta USA which has a comparable population, and also has a sprawling land area several times larger
  • The future of transport power for rail and all vehicles is electric with the potential of bio energy identified as limited and problematic. There have been huge technological advances making tram or electric bus rapid transit systems without overhead wires now viable with provision of rapid recharging points. On my way to Marrakech, I had seen one of these in operation on the Seville tram line. To make electric transport power low carbon, its sourcing must be renewable, so cooperation with the energy sector is required.
  • Cities must be multi modal with electrified mass transit whether rail, tram, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or bus and providing a core integrated network linking the centre and other major mobility demand zones: major retail or employment areas, universities, hospitals and sports venues, to where people live. Journeys not possible by walking, cycling or public transport must be by non individually owned electric passenger vehicles obtained though apps or hire like the European city bike schemes.
  • Road space and parking must be properly charged for, and there is no future for the space and resource consuming individual private car, even if electrified. This will be achieved on a phased basis with initial congestion zones and charges on main orbital and arterial roads extending in scale over time as investment in alternative infrastructure progresses.
  • Gender equity, a theme of COP22, requires that public transport and cycling particularly at night time be made safe and attractive for women, and I attended a very insightful workshop on this.
  • Citizen engagement is key to achieving the momentum for action. The parallel benefit in solving the mounting public health crises in traffic pollution and making cities safer more attractive for all, young and old, is key to gaining public and political support.

Equally encouraging was the issue of financing. The main investment agencies across the world including the European Investment Bank are geared to support well considered urban transport investment . There is access to financial sources and capacity to create "green bonds". The doors are open.

The difficulty in applying this to Dublin, is the current local authority boundary system and lack of political leadership. The major cities across the world generally have unitary transport and land use planning authorities to cover their entire catchment area. The cities that have shown best progress have mayoral and politically elected administrations with real power and capacity to take on major borrowing directly.

As long as the current ineffective Regional Authority structures remains in place in place with Dublin City and County divided into four separate local authorities and the Anglo Norman county boundaries of the surrounding area continue in their current local administrative form, there is little prospect of progress in Dublin.

The message of citizen engagement to create political leadership is desperately needed for a unified vision for the greater Dublin and surrounding population area. It means rising above backyard and parochial concerns and recognising that the current congestion sprawl and rising air pollution of Ireland's capital and its hinterland is damaging for everyone, including the country at large in emission cost. It means reactivating the DART Interconnector to tie the Greater Dublin Rail system together and creating a network of additional Luas or BRT routes, to progress with the restriction of private cars and enhancement of the environment for walking and cycling. It means activating the long established but largely ignored Department of Transport’s "Smarter Travel "policy and action measures of 2009. Above all it needs a strong, legally competent delivery agency to make this possible.

An Tasice is seeking partners and wider community support to advance this objective.

Ian Lumley, Marrakech


Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.