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Transportation accounts for half of the world’s oil consumption and about a fifth of the world’s total energy use – and 40% of those resources are used for urban transportation. A new report by the International Energy Agency suggests that these numbers are set to double by 2050 because more and more of the world’s population is moving to cities. To address the issue, the agency has proposed some radical changes in policy and infrastructure planning to address the inevitable reality of more crowded trains and buses and more congestion on the streets. If implemented, these changes in policy and planning could collectively save countries $70 trillion by 2050.

The IEA expects global transportation to double by 2050. Though the increased mobility will bring with it many advantages and benefits, it will also bring many challenges and difficulties. For example, the report says that corresponding transportation energy use and emissions will increase 70% between 2010 and 2050, despite vehicle technology improvements. It also says that the amount of motorized vehicles on the road will double, and roadway congestion will increase as much as six-fold. The projected increase in travel will cost countries billions of dollars a year in to mitigate the associated noise, air pollution, congestion, and climate and economic impacts.

The IEA has come up with an “avoid, shift, and improve” approach to mitigate these issues. The “avoid” policies center around reducing the burden on transportation systems through strategies such as promoting telecommuting. The “shift” policies focus on encouraging more energy-efficient modes of transportation, such as bicycling, walking and taking the bus. And the “improve” policies propose to make transportation systems more energy-efficient. But because cities aren’t all the same, the report has different types of “avoid, shift, and improve” solutions for developing cities, congested cities, sprawled cities and multi-modal cities.

“Governments must think beyond individual technologies and electoral cycles, and consider how to build – and how to renew – cities that will accommodate and transport nearly 6.3 billion people by 2050. We much plan infrastructure, logistics and energy systems now that make sense today and over the coming decades,” said the executive director of the IEA, Maria van der Hoeven.

+ International Energy Agency

Via SmartPlanet

Photos by McKay Savage from London, UK [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and by Eliduke [CC-BY-SA-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons