ENVIRONMENT: Eco-Drive A Sustainable Solution At The Heart of UN Agenda

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By Katsuhiro Asagiri and Valentina Gasbarri

NEW YORK (IDN) - As an American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the newly appointed UN Messenger for Peace, warned some 120 heads of states at the UN Climate Summit on September 24, impacts of climate change and global warming have been perceived more dangerous and globally widespread and it has become the gravest existential threat to humanity. While he urged governments and industries to take an immediate and decisive actions to tackle this global issue, he stressed that protecting our future on this planet depends on “the conscious evolution of our species”.

Climate change is a problem requiring new and transformative solutions. In order to achieve the goal of sustainability, the role of public-policy makers, governments and international institutions as well as of the private sector and the academia is essential. Taking a cue from the United Nations, the first “International Conference on Global Environment, Carbon Reduction, and Eco-Drive as a solution towards sustainability” was held on October 17, 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It was co-hosted by the World Association of Former United Nations Internes and Fellows (WAFUNIN), the ASUA Corporation of Japan and the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations.



The Conference represented a unique opportunity to highlight environmental factors of sustainability and, within them, the paramount role of greenhouse gases, especially black carbon, and also to seek visionary solutions through the process of sharing knowledge and best practices among participants from all over the world with different backgrounds, in order to maintain the equilibrium between geographical and thematic coverage of the main issues.

Engagement at all levels was the key element of the conference to examine (1) impact of transportation sector on the global environment, (2) new transportation technologies for environmental protection, (3) potentiality of eco-drive solution which has impact on fuel efficiency and reduction of traffic accidents, and (4) environmental policies in transportation sector in different countries.

As outlined by Hiroshi Maji, President of ASUA Corporation with more than 20 year experience in eco-green advocacy, the visionary eco-drive method is the answer to reach important environmental benefits, improvement in fuel economy and the reduction of CO2 emissions, reducing at the same time the number of vehicles accidents. Specifically, eco-Drive is based on changing a driver’s habits. “Motorization brought us innumerable conveniences but it also brought us many problems such as environmental pollution, traffic accidents and traffic congestions,” Maji said.

Driving with respect for the conservation of energy and the environment has become a priority for all motorists. Eco-driving is a term used to describe energy efficient use of vehicles. It is an easy way to reduce fuel consumption by road transport so that less fuel is used to travel the same distance.

While engine technology and performance of cars has improved rapidly in the previous decades, most drivers have not changed their driving style. Eco-drive formula seeks to change the mind-set; it entails the re-training of drivers from all countries and cultures to improve their behaviours to make the driving experience more pleasurable while saving energy and money, minimizing pollutants and reducing the number of traffic accidents.

Julie C. Becker, Vice President for Environmental Affairs of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, encouraged participants to engage with this eco-compatible approach, analysing all factors of sustainability from the automakers side. “All automakers must significantly improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, they must do this even as the price of gasoline drops and, finally, as fuel efficiency and safety technologies leap forward, fleet turnover is one of the most powerful tools for achieving sustainable transportation,” she said.

Ian Jack, Managing Director of the Communication and Government Relations of the Canadian Automobile Association, presented the consumer’s perspective. Indeed, thanks to its impact on fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as its lower exposure to road risk, eco-driving is both a cheaper and safer way of driving for motorists with a 10-15% fuel reduction; improvement of road safety and enhancing driving skills; saving almost 300$ per year per person; more responsible drivers and higher comfort for the driver and the passengers.

Hence, eco-driving is the global driving culture of the 21st century, which is compatible with modern engines and makes the best use of advantages vehicle technologies offer. It is an energy efficient style of driving motorised vehicles at lower engine speeds.

From Theory to Best Practices

There are many smart and safe driving techniques, which can lead to significant fuel savings possibilities. In 2006, the Tokyo Trucking Association (TTA) launched a pioneering initiative called ‘The Green Eco Project’ (GEP), including countermeasures for the reduction of CO2 for the prevention of global warming. Today, almost 700 companies and 20,000 trucks have joined the environmental-friendly project, Keiji Endo, Director of Environment, Tokyo Trucking Association, pointed out. The main feature of the project is the integrated approach between “paper-and-pencil”, training and capacity building activities and the development of a database of fuel efficiency.

Indeed, the GEP starts with a driver hand-filling a form called ‘driving management sheet’ which enables the driver to grasp his own driving behaviour and fuel consumption as well as serves as a communication tool to improve workplace environment. In GEP, all managers, supervisors and drivers enhance environmental awareness. It also helps tracking companies to be proactive in protecting environment, improving at the same time, the management skills.

Main successful achievements of the project are the improvement of fuel efficiency by 15.6% on average and CO2 reduction of about 63,000 tons in total. Expressed in terms of planting trees, it would be equal to filling up the whole area of Manhattan, approximately 23 square miles, with forest and in monetary terms a cost reduction of nearly 34 million dollars. Furthermore, it has succeeded in reducing traffic accidents by 30% and cut down on insurance fees by 54%.

Another strategic vision applied to the Japanese context was reported and shared by Hirotsugu Maruyama, from the Climate Change Subcommittee, Environment Committee of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA). He illustrated a set of 10 tips for fuel-conserving eco-driving including: accelerate gently, maintain a steady speed, slow down by releasing the accelerator, making appropriate use of air conditioner, don’t warm up or idle the engine, plan the itinerary avoiding congested routes, check your tire pressure regularly, reduce your load, respecting parking rules and check the readings on your fuel-efficiency monitoring equipment.

Fundamental changes are needed to address the global challenge of climate change. Delays in the transition to a low carbon method will result in less optimal alternatives becoming locked in, resulting in a society that emits an unnecessarily large amount of carbon. Automotive industries all over the world, as reported during the debate, are more focused on innovation to achieve sustainability.

Measures to lower carbon emissions levels and greening the industry are also applied by the American Trucking Association, represented by Glen Kedzie, Vice President, Energy and Environment Affairs Counsel. With the support of the U.S. Government and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Association tries to combine a greater use of eco-driving tools with a long-term commitment of the automotive industries to further reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Participants of the conference agreed that a sustainable solution of eco-drive directly responds to the UN agenda of climate change and global warming and could have a profound effect on mitigating the problem depending on changes in the consciousness of drivers. Therefore, the prevalence of eco-drive will be the mirror of “the conscious evolution of our species”, the key to protecting our future on this planet as described by Mr. DiCaprio at the UN Climate Summit.

Innovative approach

The concept of eco-driving has risen considerably in popularity in recent years, as the impacts of climate change and global warming have been perceived more dangerous and globally widespread.

Eco-driving courses, capacity-building, studies all over the globe have produced evidence of the potential for eco-driving to reduce almost 20% of individual’s fuel consumption and emissions. The eco-driving landscape was drawn during the first International Conference on Global Environment, Carbon Reduction and Eco-drive, as a solution towards sustainability, at the centre of the multilateral diplomacy, the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York, on October 17.

Co-hosted by the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows (WAFUNIF), the ASUA Corporation and the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations, the high-level debate witnessed the presence of many governments, institutions and local administrations, academic institutions as well as the private sector at the frontline of instituting positive changes through a full engagement to encourage eco-driving methods and initiatives.

Green Eco Project

The significance of the Eco-drive concept was underlined by Keiji Endo, General Manager and Director of the Department of Environment, Tokyo Trucking Association, offering an insider’s view of the main characteristics of one of the most effectives project developed in Japan in the last nine years.

“The Green Eco Project started in 2006. Around 700 companies and 20.000 trucks joined the project”, Endo said. There is a good range of existing information about how eco-driving can reduce the truck fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The accumulated data in the last eight years in driving management sheets in which participating drivers provide the amount of fuel used and the driving distance at the time of filling a gas tank anew” that fuel efficiency has improved by 15.6% on average and CO2 emissions resulted in a decrease by about 63.000 tons.

“If we express this major achievement in term of planting trees, it would be equal to fill up with trees the whole area of Manhattan (about 23 square miles). In financial terms, it would be 34 million dollars of cost reduction,” Endo pointed out. The Green Eco Project also succeeded in reducing traffic accidents by 30%, which consequently resulted in a reduction of almost 54% of insurance fees for transportation companies.

The Green Eco Project has four central tenets: eco-driving is low-cost, accessible and universal, sustainable, accurate in data collection and in behavioural change-based motivation so that drivers are kept motivated.

Moreover, one of the central tenets of the Green Eco Project has been international cooperation to share eco-driving knowledge and experience: good initiatives have been emulated, good ideas have been shared during such conferences as the COP15 side event in Copenhagen in 2009, the 5th Asia EST Forum in Bangkok in 2010, the 1st Low Carbon Summit in Dalian, China in 2011, as well as a meeting with Berlin Brandenburg Transport and Logistics Association (VVL) in Berlin in 2011.

Eco-drive approach brings environmental, financial and safety benefits at zero or low cost. It is therefore no surprise that eco-drive is an increasingly popular concept that was well-received by a wide range of stakeholders during the Conference in New York: policy makers like eco-drive as it contributes to environmental and safety targets; companies like the cost savings; private individuals like the cost savings and the more relaxed and safer style of driving; and vehicle manufacturers appreciate the recognition that it’s not just about technologies and that their vehicles can achieve the official fuel consumption results if driven well.

An important element of this project is “the pen-and-paper approach” to raise awareness of the driver, along with the basic and continuous eco-driving education. “Good drivers are given recognition as a means of motivation”, Endo explained, and also “managers are involved in the project as an equal footing and have the chance to participate to seminars”.

In partnership with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Cargo Transportation Evaluation System, the world’s first fuel efficiency evaluation system, to show results and publicize them to the wide public including cargo owners and consumers is a fundamental activity correlated with the project. Indeed, the evaluation system was constructed in 2013 based on a part of over 6 million data accumulated by the Green Eco Project.

Expressing the enthusiasm and positive reactions of all participants, Glen Kedzie, Vice President Energy and Environment Affairs Counsel at the American Trucking Association, said that the good practices and the philosophy of the Green-Eco Project brought to the Conference a valuable added-value.

Hugues Van Honacker, Team Leader, Directorate General of Mobility and Transport, European Commission, expressed his appreciation for the Conference and the Green Eco Project, highlighting the EU commitments in recent years to develop and implement of eco-friendly projects concerning alternative fuels strategy. Some of the main achievement at the EU level would be the creation of harmonised EU-wide standards and common technical specification as well as consumer information and awareness-raising activities.

Following the main theoretical nature and principles of the Green- Eco Project, the EU Commission in partnership with the Intelligent Energy Europe programme of the European Union, designed and implemented a project called ECOWILL. It is aimed at widespread eco-driving training courses by deploying the existing infrastructure of driving schools. ECOWILL further introduced and rolled out e-learning methods. In addition, ECOWILL aimed at harmonisation of driving lessons and driving tests for learner drivers.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Road Transport Bureau, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, edited a publication titled: “Fuel Efficiency of your Car- Why is it different from the Catalogue Fuel Efficiency?”. It points out that eco-driving signifies driving techniques and manners that help drivers reduce fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and global warming as well as traffic accidents.

“Fuel-conserving driving not only saves fuel expenses but also gives passengers greater safety and riding comfort, with the key principle of driving in a relaxed an unhurried manner,” as Hiroshi Maji, President of ASUA Corporation, told the Conference participants. [IDN-InDepthNews – October 31, 2014]

Image 1: Group photo of a Panel Discussion in New York | Credit: Tokyo Trucking Association

Image 2: Eco-Drive UN Conference

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