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Does urban form really matter? – a reply

By Felix Creutzig

In a recent blog, I discussed an article. The paper points out that urban form policies have a rather moderate impact as population growth and land consumption trends dominate the overall dynamics. In my blog I suggested that EU fuel efficiency regulation for new cars should demonstrate higher impacts on reducing GHG emissions. Anil Namdeo from the author team responds with the following reply:

“The Trend trajectories are largely driven by the high rate of growth in the region (London and South East): the number of dwellings increase by 30% over the Trend, a product of a 19.1% growth in population and a reduction in household size. Road traffic grows from 220 billion vehicle kms in 1997, to 338 billion vehicle kms in 2031, an increase of some 1.57% per annum. This growth eventually counteracts the gains in noxious emission (NOX, PM10, CO, VOC) reduction won via clean technology. Although newer vehicles will be more fuel efficient, CO2 emissions continue to rise because of the growth in vehicle travel and the increase in congestion and because we have not assumed carbon neutrality for new dwellings as these have yet to be achieved in mass market building. The lower speeds associated with congestion create additional emissions due to frequent stop-start operation of vehicles.”

From my point of view, this discussion demonstrates that urban form measures are insufficient on their own to achieve ambitious GHG abatement and other environmental targets. Instead, I argue that a combination of land use, push and pull policies can achieve synergies resulting into a relatively low-carbon urban transport world.

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