On 26 January, 2015 we presented some preliminary results and insights from the two-year project “Living in the Mobility Transition”, funded by the Mobile Lives Forum. The project investigates how transitions to low-carbon mobility are envisioned by policy-makers in 14 countries as well as at the EU level and by the UN and associated bodies.
The countries covered in the study represent a diversity of geographical, political and socio-cultural contexts as well as ways of dealing with the low-carbon mobility agenda. They are the UK, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Norway, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.
In each country members of our research team have produced surveys of national policy regarding low carbon mobilities as well as three “local” case studies, illustrating how national policies are applied locally or how alternative or complementary visions are developed in a bottom-up fashion. These include e.g. Rapid Bus Transit, cycle schemes, the development of electric vehicles, forms of telework and road pricing among other cases. In particular, we are interested in the ways that mobility policies portray and represent particular kinds of mobile life-styles and, ultimately, give mobilities meaning. Some of these policies are also quite speculative and so we are also interested in how certain mobile futures are being imagined and anticipated.
In the end we will have 14 accounts of national government policy and 42 local case studies in addition to accounts of policy constructed at the international and supranational level in the United Nations and European Union.
The project is carried out by research teams at Northeastern University, Boston, and Royal Holloway, University of London. The team includes seven researchers: Tim Cresswell (Northeastern), Peter Adey (Royal Holloway), Cristina Temenos (Northeastern), Jane Yeonjae Lee (Northeastern), Andre Novoa (Northeastern), Anna Nikolaeva (Royal Holloway) and Astrid Wood (now Newcastle University).
The audience responded to the presentation both with comments on the theoretical underpinnings of the project (how to define a “transition”? how do we know that transitions are happening?), questions to the historical situation of mobility transition, as well as with questions on the specifics of findings (are mobility transitions primarily urban, and what historical urban networks have seen certain policies take hold in particular places?). A productive discussion also developed around the issue of the relevance of the nation-station for such a study: on the one hand, visions of low-carbon mobility are themselves mobile as consultants and experts travel the world and ideas are reposted and retweeted; on the other, the nation-states still officially carry the responsibility to report on CO2 emissions and reduce them. Our preliminary findings suggest that cities and NGOs may often be more actively involved in putting transitions forward (and may even sue the state in the court of climate inaction as Urgenda did [add link], yet the states still take decisions on key issues that have impact on mobility and climate change mitigation (e.g. taxation).