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Transport, energy and climate change

06 May, 2020

Transport, energy and climate change

Jillian Anable

Christian Brand

Research paper   Transport & Mobility

Jillian Anable and Christian Brand


Despite decades of focus on energy efficiency and technical solutions for vehicles and fuels, the transport sector is a large and growing contributor to the climate crisis alongside other serious environmental consequences attributed to the combustion of fossil fuel. Vehicle efficiency improvements have failed to outpace the demand for the distance travelled and have therefore failed to result in absolute reductions in energy used. This chapter takes stock at this pivotal point among a constellation of so-called transport ‘revolutions’ and ponders the need to reframe the core concept of ‘energy efficiency’ if it is to be a useful focal point for sustainable action in this sector. The core contention is that the goal of energy efficiency has become so embedded in the discourses attached to low carbon transport that it has crowded out discussion of any unintended consequences or, most importantly, where we want the taken-for granted efficient and decarbonised pathways to ultimately lead. An alternative framework is proposed which opens the debate around whether levels of mobility demand are themselves unsustainable and consistent and meaningful efforts to manage demand based on notions of ‘sufficiency’ might be a more effective and potentially equitable route to lower energy demand.

Publication details

Anable, J. and Brand, C. 2019. Transport, energy and climate change. Chapter 3 in: Docherty, I. and Shaw, J. [eds] Transport Matters. Bristol University, Policy Press. doi: 10.1332/policypress/9781447329558.003.0003Opens in a new tab

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