Electric vehicle grants only reinforce car obsession, experts say in warning on our failing transport policies

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ELECTRIC vehicles are not the answer to greening Ireland’s transport, international experts have warned.

hey said the country’s transport system was “unfit” to deliver on climate action targets and current strategies to reform it were misdirected.

In particular, they questioned the policy of high spending on EV grants when the main problem with Irish transport was that it was so car-dependent.

“The Irish transport system fosters growing car use and emissions by design and is thus unfit to enable the country to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals,” they said.

Promoting EVs simply reinforced car use when what was needed was a complete change of mindset.

The assessment comes in a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) carried out at the request of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

Transport accounts for around 20pc of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions and the sector has been set a target of halving that by 2030.

The OECD authors said: “With three out of four citizens on average opting to travel by car on a daily basis, current mobility patterns in Ireland are incompatible with the country’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.”

They urged a re-examination of the aim of public transport policy, stressing it would not fix the problems if it was purely about mobility – allowing people to go where and when they wanted as fast as possible.

Key to meeting climate goals in the transport sector was reducing the need for travel through better planning and development that allowed people to access jobs, shops and services close to where they live.

Rather than simply mobility, transport policy needed to focus on “sustainable accessibility”.

Reallocating road space to walking, cycling and public transport was also essential.

“It calls for looking at streets as the core of public space and the main stage for creating liveable communities and quality safe places rather than as infrastructure to optimise traffic flows,” said Jo Tyndall, OECD environment director.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan welcomed the report which he said would support the kind of transport policies his department wanted to develop.

The minister last week announced that grants for EVs would be reduced next July at the start of a gradual phase-out.

He acknowledged that road reallocation was often unpopular and politically tricky but added: “It’s not easy, but it’s doable.”

Mr Ryan also said he would be revealing a number of ‘pathfinder projects’ in transport next week.

They were devised by local authorities asked to come up with innovative transport initiatives which the department would help roll out to showcase what could be achieved.

One project will be an on-demand bus service that will be trialled in one city, one town and one rural area.

Ms Tyndall said Ireland had plenty of potential to transform its transport system, reduce emissions and improve public wellbeing at the same time.

“The Dutch had a car culture into the 1970s when they decided to rethink the allocation of their public space,” she said.

“Now some cites have a very high bicycle usage of about 60pc and the country as a whole sees almost 30pc of all trips made on bicycle.”

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