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Sydney falls short on green public transport

Sydney, photo by Jayden Staines on Unsplash
Sydney, photo by Jayden Staines on Unsplash

Sydney looks to be falling behind other capital cities on renewable powered public transport, with a new Climate Council report flagging Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne as national standouts.

The report, released on Thursday morning, shows Adelaide leading the pack as the first city in the world to introduce a solar-charged electric bus back in 2013.

Canberra is trialling two electric buses and plans to transition its ageing bus fleet to electric, and Melbourne’s solar powered tram network was flagged as an exemplar initiative.

But Sydney could be catching up, with plans emerging recently to power the city’s new north-west rail line with solar.

The Climate Council’s report puts Australia’s transport sector through the wringer and suggests industry and policy makers are not doing enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions – particularly as the sector is Australia’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter, after electricity.

And thanks to rapid population growth in urban centres, these numbers keep going up. The country’s transport related greenhouse gas pollution levels rose by 3.4 per cent in 2017.

Another key finding in the report was that Australia is one of the only OECD countries without greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles.

It also found that Australia’s transport sector is lagging behind countries such as Russia, Mexico and Indonesia on sustainability.

As for solutions, there’s no time to waste in urging Australians to get out of their cars and catch public transport.

“Australians love their cars with almost 90 per cent of us travelling to work in our own vehicles, compared to just 5 per cent of the population accessing public transport,” Climate Councillor and energy expert Greg Bourne said.

“In fact, road based transport accounts for an even greater share of transport pollution in Australia than the global average, hitting around 85 per cent,” he added.

The report also calls for a “rapid roll out” of a fleet of sustainable transport options, such as like “high quality public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure as well as renewable powered vehicles in the form of electric bicycles, cars, trains, trams and buses”.

Electric vehicles are expected to cost about the same as conventional petrol and diesel vehicles as early as 2025, the report states.

The report offers nine recommendations for policy makers, including:

  • setting targets for zero emissions, fossil fuel free transport “well before 2050” at all levels of government;
  • state and territory governments to contract an additional 100 per cent renewable energy to power public transport systems; and
  • 50 per cent of all infrastructure spending to go towards active transport options such as cycling tracks and pathways.

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