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© Global Warming Images / WWF

Whether it’s the transport of people to and from where they need to go, or the transport of goods from source to use, transportation has a significant impact on our quality of life and trade — and the environment. Direct emissions from fuel combustion in freight and passenger transport are the second biggest contributor to South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions and the fastest growing emissions source.

What is the issue?

Transport is not an end in itself, but an enabler of people’s access to education, work, services and leisure activities; and of economic activity and trade. It must serve the goals of improving people’s wellbeing and driving a flourishing South African economy. Only interventions which both reduce emissions and deliver development can be considered solutions.

The challenge is to find ways to reduce emissions while improving mobility services, for people and goods. Direct emissions from fuel combustion in freight and passenger transport are the second biggest contributor to South Africa’s emissions and the fastest growing emissions source.

Solutions can be categorised as reduce, shift or improve. Reducing the amount of transport used includes spatial planning so that facilities are closer to where people are, or shortening supply chains. ‘Shift’ means to shift from higher to lower carbon modes of transport – away from one person in a private car, and from road to rail for goods. ‘Improve’ refers to low-carbon technologies, such as fuel-efficient engines or driving, or electric vehicles.

What are we doing?

WWF works on both individual and commercial behaviour change programmes to find solutions that both reduce emissions and improve social and economic conditions.

How do we do this?

Addressing passenger transport choices is one of the most effective ways for people to reduce their emissions. On individual behaviour change, WWF has piloted school lift clubs and corporate employee travel demand management programmes.

Public transport must be improved to keep passengers using it and attract new users. We work with cities on spatial planning and improving mobility services to achieve options that are affordable, convenient, reliable, safe and  reduce emissions.

In terms of freight, WWF works with those in the sector to explore solutions, particularly the shift of freight from road to rail. Not only is rail less carbon intensive, it’s more cost-effective, does not contribute to congestion or wear and tear on the roads, and results in far fewer accidents.

Low-carbon mobility challenge
Who do we work with?

We work with decision-makers about their passenger transport and freight modal choices. These include individuals, schools, companies and other large employers, unions, cities, cargo owners, transport providers, parastatals, and government.

How did it start?

South Africa’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows that transport is a major contributor to emissions in this country. This prompted us to begin engaging the transport sector in 2010, researching primary sources of emissions and potential solutions. The work soon extended beyond technical research to engaging with relevant decision-makers and experts.

Over a two year period, we ran a mediated modelling process to unpack the decisions that cargo owners take in their freight mode choices.

At the same time we began to work with public transport providers and users, taxi associations, and local government to explore ways of improving passenger transport. We conceived the ‘ecomobility challenge’ whereby teams of stakeholders traverse a route using only public, non-motorised or electric vehicles, and the winning team is the one that comes in with the lowest carbon footprint. The experiential learnings have been substantial.

What are the big wins?
  1. Ecomobility challenges – These challenges have been run in four cities (Tshwane, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Ekhuruleni), engaging officials from the city Departments of Transport, transport providers, large employers, and a mix of public transport users, for example including people with disabilities. The challenges provided a starting point for an extensive programme which works with cities on transport issues.

  2. WWF Freight Transport Model – We created and tested an innovative systems dynamics model of road-to-rail shifts (and back onto road if that becomes the preferable choice). Based on our consultations, material factors that cargo owners and fleet operators consider in their decisions are included in the model and can be weighted by the model user. The work is recognised as best-in-class, and has become a reference for many.

  3. Our work with the transport workers’ trade union SATAWU – We ran a series of workshops in five provinces where participating unionists identified what the union could do from shop floor level through to bargaining councils in order to reduce emissions and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. These ideas are influencing broader labour thinking on a ‘just transition’.