"Need holistic mobility alternatives to counter climate change"
New Delhi: What the world needs to effectively counter climate change is a holistic alternative for mobility that is interconnected, interoperable and intermodal, even as we switch to bio-fuels and zero emission vehicles in the interregnum, Finnish Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner has said.
"To tackle climate change, we eventually need an alternative for mobility. Yes, you can switch to electric vehicles, but I think the most important thing is to find a holistic transport system which is interconnected, interoperable and intermodal," Berner told IANS in an interview.
And, for the transport system to become truly energy efficient, it needed to become a service instead of a vehicle-ownership system.
Berner said that such a system could become possible only through cooperation among nations and that she would discuss, during her visit here, the areas where India and Finland could work together on this.
She said all countries needed to work together so that a comprehensive transport solution as a service could be made available to people where they would be able to choose from not only various modes depending on the cost but also an end-to-end mobility solution which is least polluting.
"In between, we can solve a lot by switching cars to renewable fuels and moving to electric vehicles. In between, we can try to have interconnected and automated cars. But eventually, we need a transport system that is completely holistic," Berner stressed.
"It's not in the interest of Finland to just keep Finland clean. We need to keep the global world clean. So we are very interested to find solutions in consultation with other countries." In India, Finland is looking at finding common solutions for fighting climate change, she added.
Berner is on a six-day visit to India to attend the World Road Meet of the International Road Federation (IRF) in Delhi and the Bengaluru Technology Summit.
As for immediate areas of cooperation, the minister said there was tremendous scope in the fields of electric vehicles and electric charging networks in which Finland had developed "a lot of competence".
"We also have opportunities for collaboration in developing smart cities and clean cities, recycling technologies, energy efficiency and energy supply as well as creation of intelligent transport systems for cities," she said, adding an intelligent parking system was another area where Finland could provide solutions.
Finland has committed itself to reducing emissions from the transport sector by 50 per cent of the 2005 levels by 2030. Berner said Finland was trying a lot of innovations to achieve that target which other nations, including India, could also emulate.
"In absolute terms, we have to reduce emissions by 3.6 million tonnes in 12 years. It's an ambitious target. So, we are looking at how to make our existing vehicles more energy-efficient and less polluting. Hence we are investing in bio-fuels and renewables," she said.
Finland is also looking at incentivising renewal of old vehicles and a switch to electric vehicles.
Berner said that Finland, and the world at large, was facing three major disruptions hitting the transport sector: Climate change, technological advancement and digitalisation.
"With digitalisation, we can provide new services which are seamless travel chains, door-to-door and accept mobile payments so that with one ticket and one payment system, you can get your taxi, train, plane or bus -- everything on one system. You know how much you pay, you know your schedule, how much time you need and how much you pollute.
"So with different decisions you make, you can influence your own carbon footprint. This is what we call mobility as a service," she explained.
Finland has overhauled the administration set-up of the transport sector to make the transition from the ownership model to a holistic and service-oriented model. It has done away with compartmentalisation on the basis of mode -- air, road, rail, sea. It now has departments for transport networks, services and information/data.
"We had to look at how to create networks that forget the platform. So we changed our organisation in six months. Everybody had to apply again for their jobs.
"Now it is much easier in a sense as when you work at networks, you need to look at all networks -- rail, road, air, sea and communication. If you look at services, you have to look at all kinds of services from the point of view of the user -- the citizen -- and not from the point of view of the service provider," she said.
As for technological disruption, the minister said the world would be seeing more and more drones and fully-automated aviation in future.
"On the sea front, we expect autonomous shipping to become a reality by 2025, at least for cargo," she said.
"What we basically lack is trust. Would people trust the system enough to board a plane without a pilot, a car without a driver or a ship without a captain? The question is how do we create that trust?"
Berner, however, seemed hopeful and said people in Finland were opening up to the idea.
"All of us trust the banking system. We give our money to the banks. It's an electronic system. It's basically only data. We trust that. So how do we create an autonomous transportation system that is global and which people trust?
"If we can handle that, we can handle climate change," Berner maintained.