To date, Ireland's transport emissions per capita are 40% higher than the EU average. Irish cities are amongst the most congested in the world; Dublin is the 17th most congested city in the world and one of the most congested in Europe.
66% of car journeys in Ireland are for work purposes (Central Statistics Office, 2016), with average one-way commuting times of 28 minutes and around 10% of commuters travelling more than an hour to work in each direction. Transport accounted for about 20% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 (Environmental Protection Agency, 2020), with emissions from transport expected to grow in the future. Whilst the government's Climate Action Plan detailed an intention to have 1 million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030, issues with traffic congestion will still remain even if greenhouse gas emissions reduce due to electric transport. This raises questions about the sustainability of urban areas in terms of traffic congestion, liveability and overall environmental quality.
Sustainability Benefits and Opportunities - Remote Working
In the context of transport, the Covid-19 lockdown in Ireland caused a dramatic change in travel patterns. Nitrous dioxide pollution decreased significantly, while it is estimated that the reduction in road traffic this year will reduce Ireland’s energy-related CO2 emissions by approximately 1.5 million tonnes, a 5% reduction in all energy-related emissions (RTE, 2020).
Arising from lockdown measures, a significant number of workers began working from home. Given the nature of Ireland's economy, there is a high potential for many jobs to be conducted at home on a more long-term basis, particularly in professional, finance and insurance, and technology sectors (RTE, 2020).
Research suggests that if long-term changes to remote working were incentivised, there would be a potential to continue to reduce car commuting for work purposes without a negative impact on employment outcomes. This could lead to significant environmental and social benefits, reducing the contribution of car transport to greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing the liveability and sustainability of of cities (RTE, 2020). Reducing traffic congestion through remote working and improved public transport will likely be a key factor in improving the sustainability of urban areas in the future.
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