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The key to managing the financing of climate-friendly travel

Calculating the benefits of climate-friendly travel for nature, the environment and the climate poses a challenge – but it is easier to measure the benefits of healthy infrastructure solutions. “And investments in public health correlate with reduced emissions,” states David Lindelöw, transport expert at Sweco.

To achieve our climate goals, we need to change the way we finance the development of infrastructure to be able to transition to a greener and more climate-resilient economy.

“In transport planning, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are things we do not price. There are costs we do not have a price for but, above all, benefits that we do not price,” says David Lindelöw, PhD and Transport Planner at Sweco.
In today’s cost-benefit analysis of large infrastructure projects such as roads and railways, 80% of the benefits in kronor, pounds or euro are travel time gains.

The Sweco Urban Insight report ‘Running to stand still – the role of travel time in transport planning’ stated that if we make the transport system faster, it often means that people just move further away and travel longer distances, meaning that they do not only benefit from shorter travel time.

“Therefore, it can be questioned to only calculate the travel time benefit for cars in infrastructure projects but also start valuing other benefits and also value other modes of transport such as cycling. This is rarely done today.”

Pricing the benefits for nature, the environment and the climate is still often difficult. There are other alternatives though.

In the beginning of 2021, Sweco experts carried out a cost-benefit analysis in which they used statistics on the number of bicycle trips in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden and compiled this with the help of the analysis tool HEAT from WHO to calculate and evaluate the health effects of physical activity. The analysis shows that cycling in Gothenburg increased by 15,000 trips in one year, which resulted in a socio-economic gain of just over SEK 1 billion (€ 100 million) as a result of 25 premature deaths being saved thanks to increased physical activity.

“Healthy infrastructure solutions are often also climate-friendly. Investments in public health coincide with reduced emissions”, according to David Lindelöw. “If we start evaluating other positive benefits of climate-friendly travel, the interest in financing such things can certainly increase.”

Sweco’s project with HEAT shows that there are ways to do this. “What is needed is to get more people to start thinking more broadly about the effects of infrastructure investments.”

David Lindelöw, transport expert, Sweco

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