Your guide to climate action: Transport

Whether it’s for work or for pleasure, the choices we make on how we get from one place to another - driving, flying, ferrying, biking, scooting, and public transportation- can have a large impact on carbon emissions. Today, the transportation sector results in the greatest production of global carbon emissions. Our roadways are predominantly filled with cars and vehicles that burn fossil fuels which leads to carbon emissions. Aviation (flying) is another area in the transport sector that consumes a large amount of fossil fuels and accounts for 10% of global emissions in the transport sector.

To preserve a livable climate, the average annual carbon emissions per person will need to drop from 6.3 tons (2020) to 2.1 tons by 2030 as recommended by experts. Making informed lifestyle choices when it comes to transport can help us reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality - a win-win! Keep reading for ideas and tips!


Be mindful of flying

A long-haul flight, for example New York City to Tokyo one-way, is on average almost 2 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Remember, globally, the average annual carbon footprint per individual is 5.9 tons! Flying has a significant impact on our planet because planes are heavy and their engines require a lot of fuel to power. Planes burn fossil fuels to get their energy and produce astronomical amounts of emissions as a result. Even medium- and short-haul flights cumulatively have a large impact to the tune of 0.2 to 1.5 tons per trip. Alternative methods of transportation such as train or bus can be a planet-friendly option. If you’re travelling for business, planning ahead and reducing the number of trips needed by taking a single longer trip can help eliminate the number of flights needed. For a personal vacation, what destinations are accessible via train, bus, or a shorter car drive.

Can you reduce the number of flights you take annually by combining trips or taking alternative transportation like train or bus?

(Level of effort: medium/high)

fruit bowl illustration


Walk, bike, take public transport, or carpool

Walking and biking are naturally the least carbon-intensive means of transport. If your end destination is walkable or bikeable, consider increasing the number of times you walk or bike each week. If your destination is too far to walk or bike, consider taking public transportation. Shifting from cars to public transportation can reduce up to 2.2 tons of carbon emissions annually per individual. If you do need to travel by car, carpooling can result in up to 1.0 tons of carbon emissions reduced. Feeling ambitious? Living car-free can reduce your annual carbon footprint by up to 3.6 tons!

Is your destination within walking or biking distance? What public transport options are available to get to your destination? Is carpooling an option a few times a week or month?

(Level of effort: medium)

Apple tree illustration


Consider shared modes of transportation

Whether it’s a bike, scooter, or car, services that provide shared access can help reduce emissions in several ways. Shared services have a higher per-unit utilization and can reduce the need for net new manufacturing. For example, bike-share programmes result in higher utilization per bike and the need for fewer bikes to be purchased which is a win-win. Keep in mind that emissions do not only come from using a bike or car, there are also manufacturing emissions, so the less we need to manufacture, the lower the emissions. Shared electric vehicle services also exist in cities like Berlin and New York — a great way to gain access to a lower-emission option if you only occasionally need a car!

What shared transport services are available in your city or district?

(Level of effort: low/medium)

Mountain illustration


Consider an electric vehicle

If your household needs to purchase a car, consider an electric vehicle (EVs). This is especially impactful if your city or district has a large percentage of renewable energy sources in its electricity grid. In general, switching from a regular vehicle to an EV can reduce your carbon footprint by an average of 2 tons per year. If there are second-hand EV’s available where you live, even better, as manufacturing new EVs requires a high amount of minerals and precious metals. Mining these resources results in carbon emissions but the longer we use the vehicle, the lower the manufacturing emissions will become over time. Keeping the vehicle in good shape with regular maintenance will also ensure a longer lifetime. Last but not least, the smaller the vehicle, the less energy required to move it; consider purchasing a smaller vehicle to reduce overall carbon emissions.

Does your city or district use renewable energy resources? Are there second hand EV’s available? What size vehicle do you need?

(Level of effort: high)

Motorbike with packages illustration