Low emissions fleets and better cycling and walking infrastructure are among the ways local government can tackle transport pollution.

Since the first Australian manufactured electric buses joined Adelaide’s public transport network last July, the vehicle’s manufacturer has been contracted to produce another 50 low-carbon buses for NSW, Queensland Victoria.

As a result, the number of employees at the company has increased from 29 to 79.

Tindo, Adelaide’s world-leading solar electric buses, are among the initiatives highlighted in a new report by the Climate Council on sustainable transport solutions for local government.

It argues that local governments can drive down transport pollution, which is the second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in Australia, through a range of new approaches.

“Australia needs to rapidly roll out a set of sustainable transport solutions like high quality public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure as well as renewable powered vehicles in the form of electric bicycles, cars, trains, trams and busses,” says the report produced by the council’s Cities Power Partnership, which is a resource for local government.

It outlines 10 recommendations for local government, which include the need to:

  • develop a climate and transport policy and action plan
  • gather data on local transport patterns
  • encourage sustainable transport use by local government staff, for example by providing low emissions fleet
  • provide adequate cycle lanes and pedestrian infrastructure
  • look at disincentives for car use, such as re-allocating road space for cyclists.

Cities Power Partnership energy analyst Petra Stock says councils can be driving force in reducing Australia’s worsening transport pollution, which saw emissions rise by 3.4 per cent last year.

Petra Stock

“Australia is in the slow lane when it comes to tackling greenhouse gas pollution from our transport sector,” she told Government News.

“Nationally we lag behind countries like Russia, Indonesia and Mexico in terms of the energy efficiency of transport.”

She says the report canvasses options to help councils pivot to sustainable transport and encourage people to choose public transport, walking and cycling.

“Local government can help because councils control quite a lot of levers when it comes to transport in their areas,” Ms Stock says.

The report emphasises that many local governments are already putting sustainable transport policies and strategies in place, she says.

“The ACT has a zero emissions vehicle action plan which is around transitioning to electric vehicles, while other councils like City of Moreland has a plan that looks at encouraging more sustainable transport options. The City of Adelaide was a world leader when it introduced solar powered electric buses to run around its inner city loop.”

For councils that haven’t yet explored sustainable transport, Ms Stock suggests beginning with a stocktake.

“A starting point is to develop a plan and to gather data, taking a snapshot of what the council is already doing and then working out what the options are for driving down greenhouse gas pollution from transport that makes sense for their local government, because every council has different circumstances,” says Ms Stock.

The report notes that the ACT Government has released an action plan to “dramatically reduce” greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles as well as encouraging people to walk, cycle and use public transport instead of driving.

The government is transitioning to a zero emissions fleet, with 17 electric vehicles, seven plug-in hybrid vehicles, 62 hybrid vehicles and eight electric bikes now among its assets. It is also trialling batter electric buses on a number of routes and is investigating hydrogen vehicles, according to the report.

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