Car sharing could reduce CO2 emissions by six million tonnes

New study suggests improvement in dovetailing car sharing with public transport

car and man with mobile phoneClick to enlarge
Car sharing could reduce CO2 emissions by six million tonnes
Source: RAM / Fotolia.com

Whether it is car sharing or shared housing – lending, exchange or shared usage is in fashion. That is not only good news for one's own purse but also for the environment and the job market, says a new Federal Environment Agency (UBA) study. The study shows that coordinated expansion of car sharing and public transport services could bring down environmentally harmful CO2 emissions by more than six million tonnes per year, or about four percent of the transport emissions in Germany. "Car sharing services must be much better dovetailed with public transport, for example by increasing the number of car sharing parking spaces at transport hubs. National regulation is required. Only if car sharing is better interlinked with bus and rail travel will it become attractive enough for people to do without a private vehicle", said UBA's President Maria Krautzberger.

Holiday-time home swaps, file sharing and online streaming of movies: the trend towards sharing and shared usage (Sharing Economy) has become stronger. New technical means such as Internet-based social networks and mobile positioning services have driven this development. The most well-known example is flexible car sharing, where one's cell phone can easily find the nearest available vehicle.

More mobility options in public transport and car sharing – for example combined tickets or bus-car sharing schemes in rural areas – could create more jobs in the services sector. The employment gains in transport and infrastructure companies, according to the scenarios illustrated in the study, would be far higher than the job losses affecting, the automotive manufacturing sector, for instance. Climate-damaging CO2 emissions, depending on which path of development is chosen, can be reduced by more than six million tonnes per year and emissions of the air pollutants sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides by even more than six percent. The study bases the achievement of these goals on the following scenario: The share of flexible car sharing options rises to 1.4 percent of total traffic performance. This is if flexible car sharing is used for short trips of about seven kilometres only and mainly within urban areas. The volume of public transport increases by about 5.2 percent to 21.1%, and the cycling share rises by 0.2% to three percent of the total modal split. Pedestrian traffic remains constant.

Different forms of shared housing is another example examined in the study. Demographic change is making community housing for senior citizens and houses with multiple generations in residence more popular. It allows the elderly to lead independent lives in trusted surroundings without being left to themselves. Communal living also has environmental benefits since it requires less living space per person. According to the study results, some one million tonnes of building materials could be saved per year if roughly 1.6 million more people were to live in some type of communal housing. Shared usage also means that fewer fridges, washing machines or clothes dryers are needed – another way to reduce material consumption. The energy savings made would also be considerable: in addition to the benefits for household budgets, the study estimates that it could also reduce CO2 emissions by one million tonnes.

As the debate about the Uber taxi service has shown, the new offers in a Sharing Economy may also harbour some risks, for example as concerns consumer protection. The legislator must therefore ensure that existing standards – in insurance liability or worker protection – are not undermined.

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