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A New Reality For Mobility Post-Covid

Artur Fernandes, Daniela Martins, Isabella Gernhard, Joana Ferreira, Mateus Fernande and Raquel Silva, 11-14 years old | EB 2,3 Celeirós

European leaders, like Svenja Schulze, German Environment Minister, under the “big hat” of climate change, are rethinking post-Covid mobility. They show understanding and support for a transition to a new mobility. The pandemic has brought about new paradigms, enabling different living conditions, such as teleworking, a temporary situation that will only have real meaning if structural measures are in place to prevent a return to the pre-pandemic situation as far as CO2 emissions are concerned.

With the appearance of the new virus, the ways of travelling and having fun have changed, as has the way people shop and work. All these changes have brought enormous benefits for the environment, because there has been a decrease in the circulation of the different means of transport, which has led to a 7% reduction in carbon emissions into the atmosphere, according to information published by the University of East Anglia (UEA) on the Global Carbon Budget 2020. Videoconferencing, teleworking, outdoor walks, online shopping, streaming programs and social networks are increasingly present in everyone’s daily lives. Thus, people have less need to leave their homes all the time by using their cars.

“We cannot do the same with climate as we are doing with Covid-19.”, warns Silke Karcher at a conference with students who are part of the European Three4Climate project on November 19th, 2020. “The truth is that most people accept the rules and laws regarding the pandemic because they are aware that they are in force for a certain period of time, but the same would not happen if we say to the citizens ‘now nobody will ever be able to drive a fuel car again because of the climate’,” she says.

In this respect, Svenja Schulze, German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, also present at the conference, refers to the example of the car industry in her country: “What we try to do is to bring them [the companies] into the future (…) and help them in this change to change the car industry to electric cars so that there is no loss of jobs, thus changing the focus of production”. The Minister also states that this change does not concern only light vehicles, but also heavy vehicles, which, as a result of the increase in online purchases, have been circulating with more intensity.

In response to the question “What can we do to offset the damage that lithium batteries [used in the manufacture of electric cars] are doing to the environment?”, Svenja Schulze replied that the best option would be to give several lives to the same battery, introducing the concept of circular economy.

A number of suggestions, aimed at reducing the environmental impact arising from transport, were made for Svenja to bring up for discussion. Some examples are: that labels should contain the carbon footprint, so that the consumer could be more conscious in his choices; the implementation of a system of rides in schools and the construction of a cycle path around Europe.

The trio of presidency of the European Council – Germany , Portugal and Slovenia – is represented in the countries that drive this international project (Three4Climate) – Germany (Bielefeld), Portugal (Loulé and Braga) and Slovenia (Maribor and Kranj). This aims to share good practices and put Europe firmly on a path of carbon neutrality until 2050 and strengthen global leadership in digital and green technology. Within the scope of this project, during the meeting by videoconference, students from the schools of the three countries, the head of the Climate Action and Energy Policy Department of the German Ministry of the Environment and the German Minister of the Environment were present. With regard to these strategic decisions, Silke Karcher stresses that “regardless of which level they are taken at – local or international – one should not, at any time, neglect the impacts they have on the environment.”

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