Ireland’s government has been “too slow” in shifting new capital spending to public transport, said its minister for transport Eamon Ryan.
Speaking at the launch of an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report on decarbonising transport in Ireland, Ryan said: “If we just replace all the existing cars with electric cars, we will still see the gridlock and the huge social negative consequences that come with relying on such a car-based system.”
Ryan has been leader of Ireland’s Green Party since May 2011 and has served as minister for the environment, climate and communications and minister for transport since June 2020.
He said there were some benefits to switching to electric and biofuels, but that the OECD report on Ireland’s transport system published had indicated more drastic change was needed.
The minister welcomed the publication of the Climate Change Advisory Council and OECD’s ‘Redesigning Ireland’s Transport for Net Zero: Towards Systems that Work for People and the Planet’ report on the Irish transport system, saying that it both supports and challenges the government’s transport policy ambitions.
He announced he would be launching the chosen ‘Pathfinder Projects’ over the coming weeks. The minister has asked every local authority in Ireland to identify priority public transport and active travel projects which would have the greatest impact on the people in their areas. The final Pathfinder Projects would bring to life the type of transformative measures identified in the CCAC/OECD report.
He said: “Over the next few weeks, we will be announcing the final assessed Pathfinder Projects for towns, cities and townlands from Donegal to Kerry. These projects will be delivered in the next two to three years and will begin to demonstrate practically, by people using them, that we can use our road space differently, we can re-imagine our towns and cities, we can begin to shift our focus from the car to other more sustainable transport systems.
“The report’s findings on what are the most impactful and transformative measures, which will also increase people’s wellbeing, strongly reflect and support what we are seeking to deliver overall through our Sustainable Mobility Policy, the work of our Leadership Group and this ‘Pathfinder Programme’.
“The scale of the challenge we face in decarbonising transport, as highlighted in this report, will not be easy and will require a truly transformative level of behavioural and systems change over years. The perspective in this report is rightly on making changes now that will deliver a net zero future for transport to 2050.”
The longer-term focus should be on challenging the reasons for car dependence, said Ryan. “I would also reinforce, however, the need to continue our focus on electrification of our passenger and public transport fleet, as set out in our Climate Action Plan, as an appropriate measure for the medium term to 2030.”
The OECD report highlights that current Irish transport systems foster growing car use and emissions by design. Like many other OECD countries, Ireland, has seen car-dependency and car culture as an unavoidable consequence of progress, the report says. “As a result, road space, towns and cities have developed largely to facilitate cars to pass through, with a focus on mobility – that is getting from a to b as fast as possible - rather than prioritising easy and healthy accessibility to work, schools or town centres,” the report says.
Ireland could “unleash enormous opportunities” by prioritising policies with “high transformative potential”. This would include reallocating road space to ensure that walking and cycling are accommodated and are attractive for people, by making on-demand shared services like public transport or rental bike or e-scooter systems more mainstream across the country, and “developing communications strategies that will begin to change engrained mind-sets around car use”.
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