Current transportation technologies and behaviors are major contributors to pollution, traffic congestion, noise, and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Globally, 23% of GHG emissions come from the transportation sector. As countries seek to reduce their GHG emissions, many are rethinking their approach to transport. While seeing access to transport as a right, three countries have been working to reduce or change the number of personally owned vehicles and expand public transportation options while making the ownership of an emissions-free personal vehicle easier and more affordable. The three countries in this case study, France, Norway, and Luxembourg, share the goal of reducing their country’s GHG emissions, and have enacted very different policies that provide lessons-learned for other countries seeking to do the same.
France has developed a high-speed rail network that connects urban and rural areas. In 2017 France also implemented a fuel tax along while providing incentives for electric vehicle (EV) purchases. The increased cost of operating a gasoline vehicle is meant to decrease their usage, while lower EV prices are meant to encourage them as an alternative.
Norway has developed incentives for owning EVs. This includes exempting EVs from taxes including the import tax, value added tax, and road tax. Norway also provides benefits for EV owners such as free access to toll roads, publicly financed charging stations, and special parking spots in cities. This has resulted in Norway having the highest per-capita adoption of EVs. In June of 2018 EVs constituted 47% of newly registered vehicles in Norway.
In Luxembourg they have taken a different strategy by investing in transport modes that are meant to reduce the number of personally owned vehicles. In Luxembourg all trains and buses are free to use. This strategy does not incentivize EV ownership but rather encourages people to use alternatives to personal vehicles.
Lessons learned from these countries include:
- In Norway, the EV incentives have spurred adoption but have not reduced congestion in city traffic and have resulted in a reduction in the country’s income from vehicle taxes. This means there are fewer public funds for infrastructure projects that could further reduce pollution from the transportation sector.
- Luxembourg’s transportation has been successful in reducing personal vehicle ownership, but it should be noted that it is a much smaller country compared to France. Luxembourg is approximately 1000 square miles compared to France’s nearly 250,000 square miles. Making all public transit free is also more expensive than some other programs designed to encourage public transit usage.