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Finns show interest in sustainable mobility and low-emission cars

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Research Director Johanna Särkijärvi (Photo: MINTC)

The results of the Climate Barometer have been published. The Climate Barometer is a survey conducted once every four years to find out the opinions of Finns on climate change and climate policy. Let’s take a look at the results: what do they tell us about people’s views and choices in everyday mobility and how high are the expectations for the public and private sectors?

First, the most shocking news. According to the Climate Barometer, as many as one-fifth of car owners say that in the next five years they are going to give up their own car and transfer to using more sustainable mobility services. Living without a car does not only change your mobility habits, but also affects the choice of where and how you live, for instance.

If one fifth of car owners really give up their own car, the impacts will be huge.  And even if only a half carried out their plan, it would still be a very high number of people.

Even greater number, around 40 per cent, of car owners say that they have already reduced their driving time and started using sustainable forms of mobility more, like walking, cycling or public transport services. An equal number of respondents intend to drive less in the next five years and increase the use of sustainable forms of mobility. The demand for sustainable mobility services clearly seems to be on the increase.

Transfer to sustainable modes of mobility won’t happen by itself

The demand potential visible in the Climate Barometer will not automatically turn into reality. Will we be able to respond to the future demand with high-quality mobility services and also provide the supporting infrastructure? Will the structure and attitudes of the public and private sectors support the current transfer to sustainable mobility modes? What about employers, will they provide the employees with incentives and a favourable environment for sustainable mobility solutions?

In the near future, we should have a supply of attractive public transport services supported by new mobility services. The conditions for walking and cycling either as independent transport modes or combined with different mobility services should also be favourable. This means a lot of work for businesses, government and municipalities.

For three out of four Finns it is important that the municipalities provide opportunities for climate-friendly everyday living for their residents. However, municipalities alone will not be able to respond to this challenge. It will require broad-based cooperation between the public and private sectors as well as exchange of information and customer-oriented planning.

Emphasis in taxation from owning to using a car

In order to reduce emissions, many of the Barometer respondents are ready to reform the taxation on transport.  Two thirds say that the car tax of no or low-emission cars should be reduced and the annual vehicle tax of high-emission vehicles raised. The emphasis in taxation would transfer from purchasing a car to using one. This would speed up the increase in the number of low-emission cars, which in turn would reduce emissions from transport.

Another incentive for choosing low-emission cars would be an increase in the taxation of fossil fuels. This gains support from nearly a half of the Climate Barometer respondents. The reform of car and vehicle taxation together with the increase in the taxation of fossil fuels in transport would have a significant impact on the choice of vehicle. Year by year the emission level of cars would be lower and lower.

Third of car drivers interested in electric and gas cars

What will the future for electric and gas cars look like? As many as a third of the Finns would be prepared to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel powered passenger vehicles in 2030. One third of the car owners say that their next car will be a low-emission electric or gas vehicle.

The trend in the number of electric and gas cars is the key in curbing transport emissions. However, the renewal of the entire vehicle fleet will take time. The growing interest towards electric and gas cars is paving the way for reaching carbon-free transport by 2045.

In the light of the Climate Barometer results, it seems that the attitudes are changing. More and more people are ready to support the measures reducing transport emissions and make changes in their everyday lives.   The climate concern is turning into climate action.

Johanna Särkijärvi

The author works as Research Director in the Climate and Environment Unit at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.