Transport industry not sustainable: NTC

National Transport Commission chief Nick Dimopoulos has warned that transport policies and practice in their current forms are both contributing to, and threatened by, climate change, and called for an end to suburban sprawl.
 
In a presentation titled “Planning for environmentally sustainable transport” at last week’s “Whither the Weather? – Planning and Coordinating Services for a Changeable Climate” conference in Melbourne, Nick Dimopoulos warned that “Australia’s transport infrastructure – roads, rail, ports and bridges – is highly vulnerable to sea level rises, floods, coastal erosion and temperature extremes.
 
“Australian Conservation Foundation research suggests that a 2-degree increase in global temperature will result in a 17% increase in road maintenance costs, running into hundreds of millions of dollars.”
 
Mr Dimopoulos also warned about the potential for Australia’s oil supplies to diminish in th near future: “The design of Australia’s transport infrastructure is based on the availability of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels. However, Australia’s oil self-sufficiency is forecast to decline from 85% to 40% by 2020. Concurrently, national demand for oil is forecast to increase by 50% between 2000 and 2020.
 
“Without research and planning to support a distribution network for potential alternative fuels, such as hydrogen and electric powered vehicles, our transport system could soon be running on empty,” he said.
 
As a result, Mr Dimpopoulos said urban planning, including transport corridors, port/rail/airport access and industrial/residential development must take a new direction. “Urban planners need to think through the sustainability of further suburban sprawl,” he said.
 
Why transport is part of the problem
 
“Transport is part of the climate change problem. It currently contributes around 14 per cent of total emission and is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in Australia,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
 
“The land transport task will almost double between 2000 and 2020; with road freight increasing its market share by 6% to 42%. This could potentially result in another 50,000 articulated trucks on our roads, generating more carbon emissions.
 
“Transport will become its own worst enemy if it fails to play its role in addressing climate change.
 
“These problems cannot be fixed by the same thinking that created it.”
 
Mr Dimopoulos called on governments to show leadership and investigate new ways of dealing with transport’s problems, including congestion charging and an end to greenfield development in outer-urban areas.
 
“Our best transport planning has got us to where we are today without the challenge of climate change. Doing more of the same is simply not sustainable.
 
“We need to think differently about transport policy issues for the future, including:
• better designs for infrastructure to protect them from weather threats;
• best practice fuel efficiency standards for vehicles;
• long-term planning;
• better public transport;
• better land-use planning.
 
“Getting there requires leadership and a commitment from all governments to work together on common national problems," he said.

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