Question: What initiatives, policies and technologies can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector?
Deadline: Saturday, June 13, 11:59 PM Eastern Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.
The movement of people and goods is critical for the functioning of economies. Transportation allows access to basic necessities, such as places of employment, health-care, education, government, and leisure. Transportation has become an enabler of the global, connected economy. However, that increase in activity has caused transportation energy demand to rise, and due to this sector’s oil dependence, CO2 emissions to grow. CO2 emissions from transportation are growing at the highest rate among those from all end-use sectors.
The main question of this sub-contest — How can CO2 emissions from the transportation sector be reduced?" — is straightforward, but the response may be as multifaceted and complex as the transport system itself.
Solid proposals should offer innovative ideas, or build upon existing ones, which either:
- Describe specific actions that will significantly reduce emissions from a particular mode of transportation, or in a particular place, OR
- Provide a coherent and scalable way to integrate multiple actions that individually reduce emissions.
All responses should include the following:
- Details on how the innovative or enhanced existing idea could be implemented (“details” suggesting, policy intervention in a specific place and/or scalability or workflow);
- A discussion of possible barriers to implementation and possible unintended consequences;
- Estimated timeline to maximum emissions reduction; and
- Provide a narrative or explanation on how this intervention integrates with energy use and associated emissions.
Technology And Policy Solutions
A number of Climate CoLab sub-contests separate two kinds of actions: physical and social. Due to the nature of transportation, many actions to address emissions involve a mix of social and physical activities. For instance, proposals for the transportation sector could consider the following actions:
- Increasing road vehicle drivetrain efficiency or reducing driving resistances, such as aerodynamic drag or rolling resistance.
- Switching from the incumbent gasoline or diesel to alternative, low-carbon fuels.
- Encouraging consumers to buy smaller or more lightweight vehicles.
- Encouraging manufacturers to diversify their product lines.
- Demand side management to reduce travel by encouraging behavioral changes, such as carpooling or mode-shifts.
In this short list of examples, number 1 involves technology improvements for vehicles, or “physical actions.” The United States Environmental Protection Agency's CAFE regulations can help speed their development and introduction. Number 3 is mostly a “social” approach, involving government policy aimed at inducing individuals to change their habits, but can be aided by physical infrastructure such as HOV lanes, mobile phone apps (carpooling) or public transit terminals (for mode-shifts). Number 4 asks the private sector to work collaboratively with government to create a paradigm shift in industry and federal incentives.
Other technological actions include the development and deployment of new transport technologies and/or infrastructure that will reduce absolute emissions from passenger or freight movements (or both), or drastically reduce emissions from existing transport modes. Other approaches — including telecommuting — might involve avoiding transport activity altogether or provide users with more information to make informed choices on their mobility.
Policy actions including land-use, transport planning or economic incentives have consequences for transport activity and thus emissions. The distances people must travel to access work and other services are determined by the locations of their residences, businesses, schools, and other services. These travel options are also affected by geography and the location of where roads and public transit facilities are built (or not built). The two are both intimately related to issues of land use and transportation planning and thus have direct impacts on overall CO2 emissions, particularly in urban areas. Proposals that not only aim to increase mobility but also in concert create greater access are strongly encouraged.
Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria: feasibility, novelty, impact and presentation quality. Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented. For details about the judging criteria, click here.
Judges Choice and Popular Choice winners will receive a special invitation to attend selected sessions at MIT’s SOLVE conference and present their proposals before key constituents in a workshop the next day, where a $10,000 Grand Prize will be awarded. A few select Climate CoLab winners will join distinguished SOLVE attendees in a highly collaborative problem-solving session.