Buildings & Cities (Nov 2022)

Climate action in urban mobility: personal and political transformations

  • Gail Hochachka,
  • Kathryn G. Logan,
  • James Raymond,
  • Walter Mérida

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 3, no. 1


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Although many municipalities have climate action plans with targets and goals, effective climate action still faces significant implementation gaps. Implementation can falter due to barriers for the deployment of low-carbon solutions, as well as the lack of 'cultural, systemic, and psychological support' for such solutions. Cultural drivers and perceptions shape citizens’ behaviors and can perpetuate carbon-intensive lifestyles. This paper focuses on measures in climate action planning in the Metro Vancouver region of Canada regarding transportation, which remains the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions and has a low chance of reaching its emissions-reductions targets. Shifting towards greater sustainability will entail a challenge of transformative change, involving shifts in systems, behaviors, worldviews, and cultures. In implementation, the full complexity of the climate action challenge becomes most evident. A scoping review of climate action documentation and semi-structured interviews are used to examine (1) barriers to effective implementation, (2) socio-cultural perceptions and approaches to public engagement and (3) novel areas for transformational action. The study found a need to reweight the focus of climate action, which is predominantly set on techno-managerial efforts, also to include communication, narratives and broader systems change, which are the key barriers to low-carbon urban mobility. 'Practice relevance' Transportation remains a significant source of greenhouse gases and air pollutants in urban areas. To effectively shrink emissions, novel approaches are needed that go beyond technical fixes and view climate action as a challenge of transformative change. This study identifies the dominance of (1) 'practical', techno-managerial solutions, yet notes an inadequate focus brought to (2) the 'political' restructuring of systems and developmental trajectories pertaining to mobility and (3) thepersonal aspects of social perceptions and culture. Recommendations are made about how to better account for the deeper human dimensions that present persistent barriers to climate action in transportation by reweighting the focus to include the personal and political spheres of transformation.