Governance for a sustainable automobile future in Asia: Barriers and enablers


The chapters of this volume comprise a cross-cutting identification of the nexus between sustainability and transport. The book has accumulated contributions from experts with diverse disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on what sustainable transport means, and how that can be brought into reality, and what governance arrangements will be required to deliver the necessary policy and regulatory mechanisms to stimulate industrial and market reactions. The coverage of the contributions allows us to draw lessons and recommendations for a further transition for making transport sustainable, reflecting upon the critical arguments based on the current exemplars.

Governance and policy implications for a sustainable automobile future in Asia

Transport policy in Asia has long been dominated by the economic motive, which has long had much higher priority than health, equity and sustainability. Utility and convenience generally matter most, which has brought inevitable consequences at dangerous levels. The new international agenda, best represented by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has justly begun to highlight the conflict and collision of interests among different stakeholders, before firmly embedding transport as a potent means for achieving sustainability.

The sustainable transport discourse requires far-reaching stakeholders recognition and interaction to make the transition happen. Yet, the lack of coherent governance arrangements is seen in many cases presented in these chapters. Safe, adequate, efficient, affordable, inclusive and people-and-environment friendly transport systems are important enabling conditions tor economic growth, resilience of cities and sustainable urban development. Chapter 2 emphasizes the importance of SDG 11, which calls for a role for sustainable transport in multiple contexts in achieving the SDGs, by fostering co-benefits between the transport sector, cities and human settlements in an inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable manner. The implication here is that overall governance architecture is critical to help transform public transport and reduce the number of automobiles. It must be restructured to ensure that infrastructure and investment gaps are filled, so that socioeconomic problems in Asian cities and their overall impact on people, economies and society at large can be coped with.

While noting the significance of the SDGs to potentially improve socioeconomic problems in Asian cities by significantly increasing annual investment in infrastructure development, Chapter 3 highlights the importance of policy diffusion and policy learning. It looks at how and why Chinese and Indian automobile emission standards are now converging on a par with the US, Europe and Japan. Most importantly, however, both China’s and India’s systems share a number of similar design properties with the EU’s, in terms of both exhaust emission and fuel economy regulations. There is often a conjunction between international automobile environmental policy dissemination and the undertaking of domestic policy formulation. Unfolding the process of policy diffusion, by drawing insights from the Chinese and Indian cases, highlights how intergovernmental settings shape internationally high regulatory standards in terms of both automobile emissions and fuel economy.

The diversity of stakeholders and their engagement in transport governance could open opportunities for large-scale transformations. The robustness of this requirement is uncovered by the contributions of this book, with cases demonstrating purposive experimental initiatives, supported by an emergence of new networks of stakeholders with knowledge, capabilities and resources. Chapter 4 demonstrates that new public transport programs can deepen and expand cooperation of political elites and community groups, while increasing sustainability by giving rise to novel socio-technical systems. While illumination of some of the factors behind successful experimentation is possible, it also raises some fundamental questions as to how inclusive forms of transition on the ground can be generalizable to other experiments. Useful inquiry would involve identification of key elements of the enabling environment and analyze different positions and capacities of stakeholders. From the viewpoint of transport governance, this new form of stakeholder engagement and participation enriches our understanding about the rise of collaborative governance between the public and private sectors, not to mention epistemic communities and civil society.

Chapter 5 identifies the wide scope of stakeholders, including not only political and government participants, but also the automobile market and consumers. Often the industrial approach to development of green technology vehicles is a response to the national strategy. Thus automobile industry development, and user preference and willingness to purchase ‘green vehicles’, in the context of promoting the adoption of such the technology', is important. The complexity of consumer involvement in sustainable choice is represented by the fact that demand for green vehicles may be driven more by economic productivity rather than environmental motivation. The evidence seems to confirm the hypothesis by demonstrating that for the users, especially private-mode users, the economic motive is more substantial. Users tend to choose vehicles with lower operational costs. In order to stimulate industrial and consumer responses, the regulatory framework, notably the tightening of fuel efficiency standards, is important to

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direct the course of technology development and to accelerate the shift of supply to more sustainable vehicles.

Chapter 6 emphasizes how rapidly transforming regulatory policies in improvement of fuel quality, emission standards and electric mobility have opened new opportunities, as the new model of low-carbon transportation will encourage healthy competition in industry research and development (R&D) among innovators and advancement of technology, including compliance to national and international technical regulations to stay relevant and competitive. There is a strong view in the market, especially among car manufacturers and the auto-components industry, that the proposal for a complete transition to electric vehicles may not be a solution to all transport-related problems. There are also issues in developing charging infrastructure, lithium mining, developing long-life low-cost batteries and disposal of discarded lithium batteries. Therefore, it is opined that the government should facilitate its early implementation in a planned and phasewise manner taking into account a healthy fuel mix and sustainable market forces. Most importantly, an integrated holistic approach to controlling vehicular emissions requires all stakeholders, including government, planning agencies, regulatory bodies, R&D institutions, auto and oil industries to come together to evolve synchronized efforts to implement fuel quality standards, an EV roadmap and enhanced vehicular technology to meet the immediate air quality targets and achieve sustainable mobility in the long run.

This emerging trend of new technology' must, however, be well integrated into the historical and current planning of cities. Chapter 7 highlights that in the city of Gurgaon, which is expanding rapidly, as do other Asian cities, urban planning has been largely focused on providing sprawl-residential fringe expansion, with negligible investment in public transport systems, segregation of land uses and preference for low density. Lack of affordable housing has directly and indirectly led to unsustainable transport practices and systems. In fact, the Indian government’s policies and development have been focused on initiatives in land- use strategies to reduce car dependency and promote sustainable urban development. The well-intended policy and strategies have to be translated into regional and city scales, by adopting relevant plans and technologies.

One remaining issue is the post-purchase maintenance of vehicles. Chapter 8 looks at one framework to reduce and manage vehicle emissions: the mechanical inspection and maintenance (I/M) procedure for vehicles. It is an indispensable stage for ensuring high performance levels of vehicles, that in turn influence fuel consumption and the amount of air pollutants emitted. In Asia, however, the regulatory frameworks are often weak for such I/M practices. The overall degree of I/M implementation also varies, resulting in great discrepancies in control of carbon dioxide and roadside emissions. In contrast to this Asian background, Japan exhibits a distinctive difference, by embracing a comprehensive I/M system. It has horizontal coordination among different governmental administrations, to ensure a stringent level of I/M implementation. Apart from the emission reduction potential, many Asian countries could explore additional financial and economic value arising from successful I/M practices.

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