Reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector is crucial for climate change mitigation
The transportation sector is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With the rapid urbanisation throughout the country, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive solution which links cities and urban transportation to address global warming.
Jointly organised by Real Estate & Housing Developers’ Association (REHDA) Malaysia, Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP) and Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM), the 12th International Conference on World Class Sustainable Cities 2021 (WCSC 2021) was held on Sept 27- 28, with the theme ‘Low Carbon Society: From Blueprint to Implementation’.
The conference aimed to explore and address the benefits and challenges of low carbon cities, sustainable urban mobility, urban environment or greenery, and climate change.
The second session for the first day of the conference witnessed keynote addresses from Secretary-General at the Ministry of Environment and Water Dato’ Seri Ir Dr Zaini Ujang and Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Mahadi Che Ngah. It also featured Esben Neander Kristensen and Carly Gilbert-Patrick whose presentations centred around the sub-theme of urban mobility.
Malaysia’s transition towards low carbon cities
Zaini said people needed to find ways to reduce GHG emissions while developing an area.
According to him, Malaysia’s updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) included some increased ambition, such as the 45 per cent of unconditional carbon intensity reduction and the expansion of GHG coverage from three to seven GHGs.
“In Malaysia, we have classified four major strategies (for low carbon cities). One is to reduce GHG at the city level, in which the initiatives done by local governments contribute to local actions,” said Zaini.
“Next, we would like to promote green growth using Green Technology and enhance environmental sustainability through green development. Not only through the energy sector but also others. For example, by changing the mode of public transportation and types of vehicles used soon.
“Then, to leverage on our rich biodiversity by maintaining at least 50 per cent of forest and tree cover in perpetuity. At the moment, we have more than 55 per cent because the forest is significant for carbon offsetting or sequestration.
“Fourthly, to improve the standard of living and ensure a high quality of the environment.”
He added four drivers that Malaysia wanted to promote regarding low carbon cities: zero waste to landfill, extensive urban greenery, energy efficiency and renewable energy, and low carbon mobility options.
Carbon Neutral City by 2050
Mahadi shared some notable plans that emphasised low carbon initiatives for the city. The plans, among others, included Kuala Lumpur Low Carbon Society Blueprint 2030 and Kuala Lumpur Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan 2019-2028. These master plans and blueprints align with the Sustainable Development Goals in light of KL-ites’ aspirations.
“With these plans in place, we aim to reduce more than 70 per cent of carbon emissions by 2030,” said Mahadi, adding a comprehensive roadmap covering energy, waste, mobility, community and green and open space, was also curated to drive Kuala Lumpur’s carbon-neutral goal.
He highlighted the buy-in of the community and stakeholders was crucial for the successful implementation of the low carbon programmes.
“Visibility is critical here. Nothing convinces people better than presenting actions and results. Bearing that in mind, we have taken the initiative to increase the installation of solar photovoltaic systems on Kuala Lumpur City Hall-owned buildings and facilities.
“To further amplify our efforts, we are also collaborating with private companies to install solar PVs and are working on developing Large Scale Solar farming projects for Kuala Lumpur.
“Additionally, Kuala Lumpur City Hall recently imposed a regulation on real estate developers which requires the utilisation of at least 30 per cent of renewable energy in their projects.”
Mahadi also stated the city would aggressively promote public transportation and electric vehicles and marked Wangsa Maju as its Carbon Neutral Growth Centre.
“We are exploring the possibility of closing off parking spaces every Friday to encourage the use of public transportation, walking and cycling to commute to work,” said Mahadi.
Sustainable urban mobility
Kristensen, the Director of Gehl Architects, started his presentation by telling the history of Gehl, a global leader in people-centred urban design. He said whilst the behaviours of human beings remained unchanged, cities had become larger but less dense.
He stated: “Many spaces are too large and uninviting with not many users. It’s a ghost town effect where people do not feel invited and don’t feel the spaces are attractive.
“How do we design and redesign inviting, life-first cities, district spaces and mobility systems?”
Kristensen shared that observation and analysis helped to understand public life.
“What’s interesting here is that mobility is not just about moving. It’s about a lot of other things and linked to many things such as how we function biologically and how our day-to-day works etc.”
He emphasised that spaces and mobility were more about a holistic approach focusing on all user groups to drive city transformation. He then added that human-scale mobility was a climate strategy.
“If we can reduce vehicular emissions, we can make the way we move around cities much nicer to our planet. There’s a lot of sustainability DNA within providing a good framework for human scale or soft mobility.”
Sharing the road programme
Gilbert-Patrick, the team leader for active mobility, digitalisation and mode integration of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the transportation sector contributes to 22 per cent of global emissions, with 73 per cent coming from cars and trucks.
She then shared the importance of road sharing, which included air quality, road safety and accessibility. Gilbert-Patrick stated transport was one of the primary sources of air pollution.
“Pretty scary statistics that 80 per cent of people in cities are breathing outside of the WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines,” Gilbert-Patrick said, adding the road safety crisis in Asia and the Pacific has reached epidemic proportions with more than 2,000 people losing their lives on the road everyday.
For starters, she stated three aspects that could help to address the issue such as:
• Designing cities and spaces to reduce the need to travel
• Shifting people to more sustainable modes (e.g. walking and cycling)
• Prioritising clean technology and increasing efficiency
She then cited a case study conducted in Indonesia, which demonstrated a change in transport planning, thinking and policy. With Indonesia’s growing population, the number of motorcycles and cars used has also skyrocketed.
“To tackle this challenge in Indonesia, UNEP, along with the Institute for Transportation Development Policy, worked with the Ministry of Public Work and Housing to set a new vision for how Indonesia wanted to design and plan its transport systems.
“We worked with them to develop their national vision for non-motorised transport. The strategy aims to create safe and comfortable and inclusive and comprehensive walking and cycling space.”
Based on her observation, Gilbert-Patrick shared things that made the difference in the country were leadership, policies & budgets, listening to citizens and research and data. — @Green