Transformation towards Sustainable Transport Systems – The Next Generation Policies

The combustion engine has made mobility a mass phenomenon. While undeniably beneficial for society, road transportation also has significant social costs in the form of contributions to climate change, air pollution, noise, land use, as well as accidents and congestion. In view of these unintended and unwanted side effects, policymakers are increasingly turning their attention to regulatory action to transform transportation. However, mobility behavior and traffic externalities are complex and interrelated. Technology alone is insufficient for the transformation to a next generation transport system because behavioral changes can shave off intended energy savings. Similarly, electric vehicles are not necessarily emissions free. In fact, the decarbonization of the energy and transport sector are closely intertwined. Thus, technology needs to be embedded into a broader policy package that addresses a set of key challenges:

1. How can we nudge individuals into cleaner cars and more sustainable mobility choices?

2. Do we need city policies such as driving bans and road tolls in the policy mix?

3. What are the most environmentally friendly vehicle technologies today and in the future from a life-cycle perspective?

4. How can we ensure that disruptive technologies such as electric vehicles yield environmental benefits?

5. What future do synthetic fuels have?

The NEXT GENERATION POLICY Project evaluates these questions. It is a collaborative venture of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). At the heart of our approach lies the recognition that we cannot improve policy design without credible policy evaluation, which is key in identifying effective policy elements as well as ineffective ones. Rigorous evaluation increases the quality of empirical evidence and, thus, strengthens the scientific foundation upon which transportation policies rest.

Launched in June 2018 in collaboration with the Sustainability Council of the Volkswagen Group, the project emphasizes inter-disciplinary and evidence-based transportation research. It combines the rigor of the scientific approach with the insights of industry partners and government bodies.