Using impact chains for a feasibility assessment of sufficiency policies in the mobility sector

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eceee 2024 Summer Study proceedings
ISSN: 2001-7960
ISBN: 978-91-988270-3-3
Stockholm 2024

Energy savings through modal shift and demand reduction (avoid) are key to decarbonising the transport sector. This is the aim of transport sufficiency policies. Some of them are already implemented and serve as best practice examples, and there are many planned and proposed policies, e.g., in the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) of EU Member States and in the literature on decarbonisation of the transport sector.

The European Sufficiency Policy Database of the Energy Sufficiency junior research group (EnSu) currently contains 120 sufficiency policies for passenger transport, grouped into seven different policy strategies and covering different types of policy instruments. In this paper, we take a closer look at 74 of them.

Methodologically, we refer to the concept of impact chains as developed by Zell-Ziegler and Thema (2022) and analyse the chain from policy stimulus to impact with a particular focus on those factors that seem relevant to the feasibility of policy implementation.

In our feasibility assessment, we seek to answer the following questions: 1) How do particular policy instruments work from cause to effect and what can we learn from them for implementation feasibility? 2) Within a particular policy strategy, how do individual policy instruments differ in terms of implementation feasibility? 3) Does implementation feasibility vary between instrument types?

Regarding the first question, we take the impact chain of the good practice example of "superblocks" in Barcelona – neighbourhoods with restricted car access – as an example of a policy that could also be implemented in cities in Germany as well. We conclude that this can work well if good public transport is available and administrations are flexible in their urban planning. However, barriers and risks such as the risk of gentrification or protests from local shopkeepers should not be neglected and must be taken seriously. All of the other 73 impact chains, which cannot be described in such detail, are provided in a supplementary table.

Regarding the second question, we focus our analysis on the enabling and hindering factors of policy instruments. We find that policies with many supporting factors often also have many barriers and risks. This is mainly because they are meta-level policies with more diverse relevant factors. The policy strategy “Reduce trips: local supply” has the most risks and the promotion of active transport has the least, suggesting a no-regret policy. Another pattern we see is that pull policies (such as incentives or infrastructure) have fewer barriers than push policies (such as banning air travel and converting road space to cycling and walking).

On the third question, we find out that regulatory instruments do not have the most risks (but do have the most barriers) and even have the most supporting factors compared to economic and fiscal instruments. In conclusion, this analysis supports a detailed consideration of decarbonisation options for passenger transport and paves the way for further research on a comprehensive policy mix in this sector.