Challenge #49 ~ Transport

Read the blog post on the February Theme – THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY

Photo by Erica Ramorino

The results from the 2019 Global Survey on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identify transportation choices as a significant way to live more sustainably.

Project Drawdown, a new way of thinking and acting on climate change, identifies Transport as one of the sectors with great potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the atmosphere. 

This week’s challenge addresses options and strategies for us to impact greenhouse gas emission reductions from the Transport sector and connects them to previous SustainableQATAR challenges. The carbon impact from transportation is clearly something that we can influence in a number of ways.

Find out more about Project Drawdown in the monthly blog Think Globally – Act Locally and see how you can help.

Electric Vehicles

Project Drawdown Number 26 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Electric vehicles (EVs) are clearly the cars of the future. Their emissions are just half that of gasoline-powered vehicles if their power comes from the conventional electric grid. If powered by renewable energy, that drops to only 5%! While the impact of hybrid vehicles is not as dramatic, it’s an important step in the right direction.

Project Drawdown explains the impact this way: ”In 2014, 305,000 EVs were sold. If EV ownership rises to 16 percent of total passenger miles by 2050, 10.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide from fuel combustion could be avoided.”

The SustainableQATAR Challenge on Electric & Hybrid Cars encourages us to give EVs a try. Not many of us are in the market for a car this week, so this challenge is not about something we can do now, but rather about starting the thought process for when a new car purchase is needed.

Mass Transit

Project Drawdown Number 37 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Cars are greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. Just driving them is literally hurting the environment. The popularity of taxis and ride hailing apps such as Uber or Careem only exacerbates the problem in Qatar. Not only are these vehicles emitting greenhouse gases when we are riding them, but also when they are on the roads passenger-less waiting for the next rider.

The key to mass transit is scale. By riding in a bus, tram, or metro rather than driving a car or riding a taxi, greenhouse gases are averted.

The carbon impact of mass transit use is significant. Project Drawdown estimates that If use of mass transit grows to 40 percent of urban travel by 2050 (instead of the projected decrease as populations become more wealthy), this solution can save 6.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions from cars.

In the Staycation Challenge we encouraged using the partially-opened Qatar Metro while enjoying your vacation here in Qatar. Here we are just 10 months later, and the system is fully open and available to all. It is a luxurious, well-run, and inexpensive solution to transport needs for many in Qatar and residents have embraced it wholeheartedly. Way to go, Qatar, for being part of the solution. If you haven’t already, you really need to take a ride on the Metro and make the Metro a common alternative for your transportation needs.


Project Drawdown Number 43 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

Air travel is a notorious contributor to GHGs. Project Drawdown identifies a number of steps that need to be taken to reduce that impact including: adopting the most fuel-efficient aircraft and retiring less efficient older planes, retrofitting existing aircraft with more fuel-efficient designs, and adopting fuel-saving practices. Implementing these changes, over thirty years, 5.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions can be avoided, saving $3.2 trillion on jet-fuel and operating costs. 

There is more we can do, however. While flying is necessary here in Qatar if we want to go anywhere outside of the country, we can still have an impact. The greatest fuel use (and therefore emissions) is during takeoff, as much as 25 percent on short flights. The Take Direct Flights Challenge illustrates one way to minimize this impact. Sometimes we have no choice, but often we do. While direct flights can be more expensive, if we take into consideration the contribution we can make toward reducing the carbon impact of flying we may decide it’s worth it.

And that’s not all. We can eliminate (yes ELIMINATE) the carbon impact of air travel by choosing to stay at home. The Staycation Challenge suggests staying here at home, enjoying the things Qatar has to offer, instead of flying to a destination. You’ll have more of your holiday time to actually enjoy yourself and feel good about not adding more carbon to the atmosphere.


Project Drawdown Number 49 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

While the Electric Vehicles Solution (Number 26) encourages us to consider electric vehicles, Solution Number 49 reminds us that it’s not all or nothing. Hybrid cars merge strengths, providing the power of gas-powered engines on highway driving with efficient electric motors at low speeds of city driving. Hybrid cars are a bridging technology. The real goal is to get to electric vehicles that need no engines at all, and can run completely on clean energy.

The Electric & Hybrid Cars Challenge encourages us to consider hybrid and electric vehicles. The gold standard is EVs, but a great step along the way is the purchase of a hybrid car.


Project Drawdown Number 63 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

You might not expect to find a Transport-related challenge during November’s Technology month, but it’s there. The Tech FOR Sustainability Challenge proposes ways in which technology can be used for sustainability. Telepresence options are constantly improving so that it is increasingly possible to function remotely, eliminating the need for travel completely. Consider using telepresence instead of flying to your next meeting. The money you save on the flight could buy you some nice equipment to enhance your telepresence experience.

Project Drawdown notes that the benefits are not restricted to sustainability “Telepresence affords many other benefits: cost savings from avoided travel, less grueling schedules for employees, more productive remote meetings, the ability to make decisions more quickly, and enhanced interpersonal connection across geographies.”

Again, Project Drawdown’s research shows that “By avoiding emissions from business air travel, telepresence can reduce emissions by 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide over thirty years.”


Project Drawdown Number 75 most impactful solution for reversing global warming

How often do you see cars with just one person or school drop-offs one kid at a time. As pointed out in The Ride Sharing Challenge, by coordinating your travel and carpooling with co-workers, neighbors, and friends, you can reduce the number of cars on the road.

Unlike most of the solutions proposed by Project Drawdown, ride sharing has no implementation costs. Even though Project Drawdown’s research only considers commuters in the US and Canada, with rising carpooling rates and numbers of people per carpool, a reduction in emissions of 0.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide is possible.”

By considering these transportation related strategies we help to reduce carbon emissions from the atmosphere and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #3 Good Health and Wellbeing; #6 Clean Water and Sanitation; #9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities; #13 Climate Action, #14 Life below Water and #15 Life on Land.