A UN panel's latest report on mitigation of climate change has Kolkata as a case study in shifting from private to public transport in Indian megacities. Urban mobility transitions in Kolkata show interconnected policy and institutional and socio-cultural drivers for socio-technical change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report. "In densely-populated and fast-growing megacities, policymakers face the difficult challenge of preventing widespread adoption of petrol or diesel fuelled private cars as a mode of transport. "The megacity of Kolkata provides a useful case study. As many as 12 different modes of public transportation, each with its own system structure, actors and meanings co-exist and offer means of mobility to its 14 million citizens," the IPCC report said.
Most of the public transport modes are shared mobility options, ranging from a few people in a rickshaw to hundreds in metro or suburban trains, according to the IPCC report on Mitigation of Climate Change that was released on Monday. An important policy consideration has been to make Kolkata's mobility system more efficient and sustainable in terms of speed, reliability and avoidance of congestion, the report stated. A key role is played by the West Bengal government in collaboration with other stakeholders to improve the system as a whole and formalize certain semi-formal modes of transport. It initiated infrastructural change in public bus systems, coordinated with private and non-governmental actors like autorickshaw operators and app-cab owners who hold crucial agency in offering public transport services in the city, it said.
Besides, new buses, including fuel-efficient, comfortable, and low-floor AC buses have been purchased by the public authorities in view of the city's hot and humid climate. These have been promoted to middle-class workers in terms of modernity, improved efficiency and comfort with an objective of shifting perceptions of public transport. Rickshaws have been improved and cycling has been banned from busy roads. These measures have contributed positively in bringing down the trend of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP to half in a decade within the Kolkata metropolitan area, with potential for further reduction, the IPCC report said, citing a 2016 journal. It underscored barriers like the complex and multiple modes of transport with separate networks and the cycling ban. The report said there has been opposition to some changes due to concerns about social equity as many of the new policies cater to the middle-class aspirations and preferences at the cost of less-privileged communities. More thoughtful action at a policy level is required to sustain and coordinate the diversity of public transport modes through infrastructure design and reflecting on the overall directionality of change. The objective of the IPCC, a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies. The report provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges, and examines the sources of global emissions. It explains developments in emission reduction and mitigation efforts, assessing the impact of national climate pledges in relation to long-term emissions goals.