Corona is the focus of our lives – environmental issues are taking a back seat. Is the pandemic slowing down the restructuring of the transport sector?
I hope not. The urgency of climate protection has not changed. We only have five to ten years to create the conditions for emission-free mobility. If we do not succeed, the air quality in cities will deteriorate dramatically. And we will miss the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. I think we all agree that this must not happen.
Governments and industry are focusing on crisis management. Won’t climate protection inevitably fall behind?
Not if we do it right. During the pandemic, global transportation has dropped by up to 80 percent. It’s like a forced experiment that shows us the benefits of sustainable mobility. In many places, air quality has improved immensely. Personally, I can observe this by looking out of my office in Nairobi and seeing the surrounding mountains for the first time. Many people are doing their work from their home offices. This saves huge amounts of emissions. Cities are creating new bicycle infrastructure within a very short space of time. We should use this experience to make our transport systems more sustainable. As quickly as possible.
Most climate targets refer to the year 2050. Where does the high level of urgency come from?
One important reason is the long life expectancy of cars. A vehicle that is registered today usually stays on the road for 20 years – first in an industrialized country, then it is typically sold to a developing country. So, cars that are put on the road today will determine emission levels for the next two decades.