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Urban form, transportation and greenhouse gas emissions

Experiences in the Nordic countries

image of Urban form, transportation and greenhouse gas emissions

The Nordic countries have a lot of common features concerning urban form and transportation. Urban structure and land use have a great impact on transport volumes and on modal split and thereby also on the amount of transport related greenhouse gas emissions. Urban sprawl has been a continuous trend in all Nordic countries for decades. Intervention to this process is commonly seen as an important task. A relatively high density of urban areas, well-functioning and accessible public transport as well as high quality cycling and walking networks are measures that are most commonly referred to when aiming at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These measures will promote other environmental and transport policy objectives as well. Instruments to develop urban form and transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be found in all planning and decision-making levels and sectors. These include especially land use and transport planning, urban design, certain types of taxation, financing of urban infrastructure, traffic pricing and parking policies as well as new ICT-related technologies. Better cooperation between researchers, politicians, civil servants and citizens is needed to find deeper understanding about economic, social and environmental long-term effects of decisions concerning urban development. Common understanding and interpretation of problems in the Nordic countries can promote favorable national solutions and decisions.

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Eco-managed telework

Beneficial environmental impacts from telework are by no means automatic nor selfevident. Unless we use the eco-managed framework for implementing telework in organisations, cities and regions, detrimental effects are quite plausible. Near at hand – without eco-management – is a worst-case scenario of "eco-disaster" teleworkers who telework only half the day at home and speed up in their car for the office in the afternoon (Heinonen 2001; 2004). This of course reduces congestion, but does not yield any savings in energy use and pollution. Later in the evening they drive to the automarket at the outskirts of the city, generating many vehicle kilometres. In lack of social contacts after working so hard at home in their home office or "hoffice", they may drive to see friends or go sporting. Sports and socialising in itself is of course quite recommendable for each of us, but from the environmental point of view what matters is when, how and where people do that. Teleworkers in this environmentally-worst-case scenario need a room both at office and at home, they are not very willing to share the costly office space. They want to have all necessary ICT equipment both at work and home, increasing eventually the number of computer waste. They cannot organise the material on what they are working, so they need all the reports copied as well, exploiting thus huge numbers of paper resources. Now that teleworking is possible, an employee might also decide to move further away from the office. The number of commuting days is decreased, whereas the vehicle kilometres with subsequent pollutants and energy use are increased. Even if they drive less frequently to office, when they do drive, it means actually more environmental burden to communities.

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