Photo and presentation: Prof. dr. Heleen de Coninck
Article: Rachel Looijenga, trainee at Lentekracht
On June 24th at the International Cargo Bike Festival Meetup, Prof. Dr. Heleen de Coninck* gave a presentation about the need to counter the global temperature rise and how cargo bikes could contribute to this.
Since the 19th century, the global temperature has risen by 1ºC. If no rapid and drastic interventions follow, the temperature on earth will rise sharply with all its consequences. Warm-water corals will disappear, sea levels will rise more due to thermal expansion and polar ice caps will melt, resulting in the damage and loss of land in coastal areas. Scientists agree that greenhouse gases must decrease in order to counteract further increases in temperature.
The climate agreements
Over the past 30 years, several climate agreements were made which state that climate change should be restricted to a limit that is not dangerous. In the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries specified the dangerous limit and agreed to an acceptable temperature rise of 2ºC, whilst also saying that countries should do their best to limit the temperature rise to 1.5ºC.
Although the Paris Agreement was signed by 195 countries, the meaning, consequence and feasibility of a 1.5ºC temperature rise were not clear at the time. That is why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was asked to make a report about the impact of a temperature rise of 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC. Heleen de Coninck was one of the authors of this report and said in her lecture that the making of the report was a challenge. It had to be a scientific report without any political influence, but it had to be policy-relevant and the summary was specifically intended for, and approved on a line-by-line basis by, policy makers.
The report showed that we have already caused a 1ºC temperature rise at this time. If we continue living like this, we will achieve a temperature rise of 1.5ºC between 2030 and 2052. To ensure that the temperature does not rise beyond 1.5ºC, and that we are resilient to the climate changes to which we are already committed by current emissions, our land, energy, industrial and urban and infrastructural systems must change drastically. It is also clear that a temperature rise limited to 1.5ºC has significant advantages over a rise of 2ºC. The tipping point of the irreversible melting of polar land ice, for example, is estimated to lie between 1.5ºC and 2ºC. Also, with an increase of 2ºC, there is more chance of forest fires, stronger hurricanes, more droughts and extreme rain, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people globally.
To ensure that the temperature rise is limited to 1.5ºC, we have to halve the CO2 emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions of CO2 by 2050. Then, in the second half of this century, efforts must be made to achieve net removal of CO2 from our atmosphere. During the Covid-19 crisis, a global CO2 reduction of only up to 8% was observed, reflecting how complex and challenging this objective is.
To achieve the required reduction in CO2, four system transitions are identified: energy, land, industry, urban & infrastructure. This last transition relates to transport and therefore also to the contribution of cargo bikes.
The contribution of cargo bikes
When determining the feasibility of the mitigation and adaptation options within those four system transitions, the IPCC authors looked at six dimensions and what the feasibility is for several indicators in each dimension. Those dimensions include technological feasibility, but also economic or institutional feasibility. Within the system transition of urban & infrastructure, it has become apparent that the feasibility of the non-motorised transport category is very high. On some subdimensions the feasibility was slightly less: employment and productivity, institutional capacity and public acceptance. Cargo bikes could offer a solution precisely for these weaker points of the feasibility of non-motorised transport.
For example, it has been found that an increase in productivity is achieved when using cargo bikes for short distances up to 2km. Besides this, cargo bikes can generate jobs and are crisis resilient. The institutional capacity and public acceptance is context dependent and concerns whether policy makers have enough knowledge about the potential of cargo bikes, stimulating their implementation and overcoming any social stigma attached.
In order to achieve the system transitions and to ensure that the temperature does not rise further than 1.5ºC, six enabling conditions must be fulfilled: multi-level governance, institutional capacity, behavioural change, technical innovation, political instruments and finance. Without paying attention to all these aspects, the bespoke systems transitions are unlikely to materialise. Cargo bikes are part of the system transitions and contribute to increasingly sustainable transport. By addressing the feasibility barriers that are now being exposed, the use of cargo bikes can be enabled and enhanced. When cargo bikes are used more and more as a means of transport, social acceptance goes up, costs go down, technology improves, investments in safe infrastructure and better equipment increase, and the influence of cargo bikes will increase.
It is time to contribute to limiting the temperature rise to 1.5ºC, and it is necessary because it clearly has benefits for the world and ourselves. Everyone must participate in this transition, including you! Find out where you can contribute in your private life, interaction with others, and in your field of work.
*Heleen de Coninck (Prof. Dr.) is Professor at Eindhoven University of Technology and Associate Professor in Innovation Studies at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Faculty of Science at Radboud University. She previously worked for more than 10 years at the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) on international energy and climate policy. Her research mainly focuses on international climate policy, energy technology and innovation. She was one of the lead authors in the 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C.
Watch Heleen the Coninck’s presentation at the International Cargo Bike Meetup here.
A great summary of the IPCC Report on Climate Change is made by Baba Brinkman.