Mobility and environment: Levers and possible solutions

Mobility is after nutrition and housing one of the areas of consumption and production with the greatest effects on the environment. A variety of levers and approaches can be used to make mobility more resource efficient and sustainable. There are significant opportunities to make transport more environmentally sustainable through the promotion of walking and cycling, shared and multi-modal mobility, improved coordination of space and transport, and eco-friendly mobility technologies based on renewable energies.

Promote walking and cycling

Walking and cycling is good for people’s health and for the environment. With 46% of car journeys covering less than five kilometres, these are an ideal distance to be cycled instead. Therefore, particularly in towns and agglomerations, short journeys by car could be replaced by bicycle journeys.

Crucial to exploiting this potential, however, is safer and more attractive infrastructure. The Cycle Path Act is intended to lay an important foundation for coherent and safer cycle lanes. 

Implement true-cost pricing

In order to respect the polluter pays principle, which is enshrined in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), and to reduce ecological disincentives, the external costs – caused for example by air pollution, noise and CO2 – should be better incorporated in the pricing of all mobility offerings.

An example of this is the heavy goods vehicle charge (HGVC), a central pillar of the federal government's policy of transferring freight from road to rail. It is part of a modern freight traffic policy, which implements the principle of cost-reflective pricing in the field of heavy goods transport and has played an important part in improving air quality along road axes, including along the trans-Alpine corridors. At the same time, it has increased the efficiency of road transport.

Improve coordination of space, transport and environment

Enhanced coordination of spatial and transport planning also promise to have a positive impact on the environment and health. For example, journeys and distances covered could be reduced through compact settlement centres in which all key everyday needs can be met . The revised Spatial Planning Act lays the foundations for this sort of inward urban development.

New working models, for example with working from home arrangements or co-working spaces, can also play an important part here and in any case contribute to a reduction in travel to and from workplaces.

Furthermore, infrastructure expansion can be better integrated into the open countryside and settlements if environmental concerns are taken into account, as this improves landscape quality, minimises urban sprawl, and reduces soil use, habitat fragmentation and resource consumption. This is where the revised sectoral plan for transport, programme section 'mobility and space 2050', comes into play. 

Ride and vehicle sharing and interconnect infrastructures and mobility offerings

The capacity utilisation of individual vehicles is generally very low: for example, in commuter traffic, the average occupancy rate of passenger cars is 1.1 persons. Public transport is only fully occupied at peak times.

The promotion of carpooling can help improve this situation in road traffic. If drivers share a ride, they take up less space on the road. 

The networking of mobility data as an inter-modal approach can reduce the environmental impact and increase resource and energy efficiency in transport by better utilising the available capacities of infrastructure and mobility offerings (public transport, private and hire cars, bikes, etc.). The prerequisite for this is a better information flow between infrastructure operators, mobility providers, intermediaries and end customers.

But the different modes of transport not only need to be digitally connected, they also have to be physically connected. This is what the federal government, cantons, cities and communes are supporting in the 'transport hubs programme'. Better transport networks lays the foundation for an increasing number of people to be willing to do without their own car.

Deploy renewable energies and optimum technologies

Environmental impacts are primarily to be reduced directly at source. In terms of road traffic noise, for example, this can be achieved through low-noise road surfaces, low-noise tyres and speed limit reductions. Meanwhile, measures and regulations on exhaust emissions and fuel quality reduce the emission of pollutants. 

Furthermore, transport emits large quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). To achieve the net zero emissions target by 2050, a shift away from fossil fuels is needed. A key path to achieving this is electromobility, which includes battery-powered vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. Synthetic fuels could also play a supplementary role.

However, in order for journeys with these vehicles to be as environmentally friendly as possible, it is important that the energy used to charge the batteries and to manufacture alternative fuels and the vehicles themselves comes from renewable sources.

The recycling of electric car batteries also needs to be further developed. 

But it is not only road transport that emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, aviation does too. Long-haul flights of over 1,500km account for around 80% of emissions. Within mainland Europe, journeys should be made by train where possible to protect the environment. Even better, however, is to reduce the distances travelled for leisure trips and to increasingly replace business travel with video conferencing. In addition, the promotion of synthetic aviation fuels can help reduce emissions.

Environment Switzerland 2022


Report of the Federal Council. 2022

Further information

Last modification 16.12.2022

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