Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reducing our carbon emissions with the bicycle

There is overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that the globe is warming due to impacts from human activity. And yet very little concrete action is being taken to reduce those impacts. Cyclists are the exception. Cycling produces almost no carbon emissions. From a recent study conducted by the European Cyclists' Federation Cycle More Often Cool Down the Planet: Quantifying CO2 Savings of Cycling:
Between 1990 and 2007, greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the EU increased by 36%, while greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors decreased by 15% during the same period. Meanwhile, climate mitigation has moved to the very heart of transport policy and to the heart of broader EU policy. By 2050, the EU has set about reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) by 80 to 95% compared to 1990 levels. Consequently, the transport sector will have to reduce its emissions by an estimated 60%.

When evaluating different transport modes, it is the bicycle that allows for important greenhouse gas savings. Although not a carbon free mode of transport, the bicycle’s GhG emissions are over 10 times lower than those stemming from individual motorized transport. Pedelecs [electric-assist bicycles], despite their electric assistance, are also found to have greenhouse gas emissions in the same range as ordinary bicycles.

This study shows that if levels of cycling in the EU-27 were equivalent to those found in Denmark, bicycle help achieve 12 to 26% of the 2050 target reduction set for the transport sector, depending on which transport mode the bicycle replaces.

Most if not all projections and scenarios conclude that measures focusing on improvement alone will fail to meet EU mid-term and long-term climate change objectives. Improvement measures are only estimated to deliver a 20% decrease in transport emission by 2050, using 1990 levels as the baseline.

In addition to technological developments and innovations, achieving the EU’s objectives will require ambitious plans which foresee an EU-wide modal shift away from individual motorized transport. Ordinary bicycles, pedelecs and bicycle-share schemes, on their own and in combination with mass transportation, all have the potential to further contribute to a much needed modal shift.
From LAB's American Bicyclist Update.

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