Linda Wårell och Jonas Forsberg
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Interdisciplinary collaboration: climate impacts of future transportation

Published: 11 June 2020

In a three-year interdisciplinary research project funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, researchers at Luleå University of Technology will study changes in future transportation, as well as the consequences these changes will have for individuals and the energy system.

The transport sector accounts for about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden. At the same time, the transport sector is one of the most difficult sources of emissions to regulate, especially with regard to the transport behaviour of private households. Political decision makers therefore have a need for effective instruments in the transport sector, if Sweden is to meet its climate goals of net zero emissions by 2045.

An analysis of scenarios

The research project is a collaboration between the research fields Economics and Energy Engineering. In an initial phase, the researchers work in collaboration with experts at, among others, the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Energy Agency, to develop various possible scenarios for what the future transport demand might look like.

These scenarios are so far only tentative, but some conceivable future visions that may be analysed in the project are the consequences of increased urbanization, increased digitization/automation in the transport sector, demographic changes and increased environmental awareness among consumers. Possible future transport solutions, such as sharing economy where the individual does not own his car but rents in a car pool on demand, are included as probable alternatives to analyse

Scenarios adopt radical changes

This is not the first time that Swedish researchers are conducting environmental impact assessments of transport solutions. What is new for this project is that it is based on scenarios that adopt more radical changes for the entire transport sector, which are analysed from both an energy system and an individual perspective.

“Using the energy system model, we can analyse which solutions are the most cost-effective for achieving the climate goals, and how they affect the energy system as a whole. However, it is not certain that consumers will accept these solutions”, says Jonas Forsberg, PhD student in energy technology.

Transport solutions that are not used by consumers will be ineffective. It is against this background that the economists in the project will carry out a survey of attitudes to various future transport scenarios and how these are affected by background variables such as gender, income, age and place of residence. At a later stage, the researchers will look at the consequences this has for the possibility of achieving the climate goals.

“Previous qualitative studies indicate, among other things, scepticism about sharing economy and self-driving cars. We are first to conduct a comprehensive quantitative study in the field in Sweden and can thus see if the results of previous qualitative studies can be confirmed”, says project manager Linda Wårell, assistant professor of economics.

Will analyse distribution aspects

The researchers will also analyse distribution aspects of the different scenarios.

“The prerequisites for changing your transport behaviour towards more climate friendly depend on, among other things, income, and whether you live in a city or in the countryside”, says Linda Wårell.

The research project "Scenario analysis of future transport - Consequences for humans and energy systems" is ongoing during the period 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2022. The project has been granted funding of SEK 3 812 378. In addition to Linda Wårell and Jonas Forsberg, Anna Krook Riekkola and Kristina Ek participate in the project.