Kinetic launch five electric buses on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland on Friday, May 20, 2022. Photo: Claudia Baxter

Research by the Climate Council  indicates  that Australia could reduce transport emissions by 75 per cent by the end of this decade with a massive shift to electrified public transport,  as well as walking and bike riding,

The Climate Council’s new report, Shifting Gear: The Path to Cleaner Transport reveals to get there, daily trips on electric public transport would need to increase three and a half times. Similarly, daily journeys made on a bike or on foot would need to triple.

Transport is the biggest source of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions after energy, with cars and light commercial vehicles alone making up almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of transport pollution.

Significant investment in zero emissions transport and infrastructure is needed to give Australians cheaper, more sustainable and reliable options to get from A to B.

Currently, the transport mix is unsustainable. Australians mostly use private vehicles (81 percent of trips), compared to just 14 percent public transport and 5 percent active transport.

By 2030, the transport mix should – ideally –  look more like 36 percent of trips made by private vehicle, 49 percent of trips via public transport and 15 percent with active transport.

Dr Jennifer Rayner, Climate Council Head of Advocacy, said that to get to net zero, the way we get around in Australia needs to change.

“There’s been a lot of focus on increasing uptake of electric vehicles as a solution, but rapidly cleaning up transport calls for a bigger re-think on how we move around,” Dr Rayner said.

“Enabling more Australians to choose public and active transport – like walking and bike riding – can drive down emissions while also delivering cleaner air, less congestion and make our communities much more liveable. Luckily, we have the technology we need to deliver this right now,” she said.

“Governments need to step up and invest in reliable and accessible services and infrastructure – particularly in outer suburban and regional areas. This will make it easier for more people to choose public and active transport for more of their daily trips.”

Andrew Stock, Climate Councillor and energy expert, said that most state governments are currently only spending a fraction of their transport budgets on active and public transport.

“The Australian average for active transport is less than two per cent, which is well below international best practice. By comparison, the European Union invests €5.4 billion euros — approximately $8.8 billion Australian dollars — in sustainable transport, and the Irish Government is working towards spending 20 per cent of their transport budget on walking and bike riding alone – in line with the United Nations’ recommendation,” said Stock.

“Right now, the average Australian household has two petrol cars in the garage. If we get the investment right, in the future one of these will be replaced by an EV but the other can be substituted altogether by a mix of trips using public and active transport.”

The Climate Council is calling for Australia’s state and territory governments to enable this big shift to public and active transport by increasing investment in active transport infrastructure, such as better connected bike lanes and footpaths, and initiatives to 20 percent of the total transport budget, boosting investment in public transport to 50 percent of the total transport budget, electrifying all public transport by 2035 at the latest and ideally by 2030.