Transport Expert Timo Ohnmacht talks about overly cheap flights, ambitious climate goals and the impact our individual lifestyles have on mobility.
People today want to personalise their lifestyles. Freedom of choice is the key motto here. How is this reflected in mobility?
It is becoming more multi-modal and varied. This means we have the choice of more and more different offers from more and more providers in our everyday life. The development of your company, Mobility, is a good example of this. While people always had to bring the cars back to the starting point in the past, your users nowadays have the choice of free-floating or lift-sharing services, or even e-scooters. I find headway like this positive because more people really need to be enthusiastic about sharing.
But isn’t Switzerland already the best sharing country?
In Switzerland, three percent of people with driving licences for passenger cars use car-sharing. Although it may be at the top on an international level, I think it is too little for a country with as good a public transport network and as many sharing services as Switzerland. There is definitely much more we can do, and it is all the more necessary as every contribution to the energy transformation counts.
In line with the Paris Agreement, the government wants to have achieved climate transformation by 2050. Realistic or just a paper tiger?
A key figure in the energy strategy states that a maximum of one tonne of CO2 per capita is to be emitted each year. If you consider that only one outward flight from Zurich to Bangkok exceeds this value by half, you can see just how ambitious the goals are. Please don’t get me wrong – this is the right and necessary way to go, and the governments are already doing a number of things to make progress. But that still isn’t enough: more conditions and regulations are needed in all manner of different areas, including mobility.
Which ultimately brings us back to freedom of choice: so you don’t think that people change their consumer behaviour for the sake of the environment?
Fortunately, environmental awareness is becoming more and more rooted in people’s minds, not least because social and political discussions on this topic are in full swing. I think that nowadays we are all aware of whether our personal decisions have a generally positive or negative impact on the environment. Nevertheless, many people are not changing their behaviour, they are not turning their words into deeds. I am therefore convinced that the shift should also be pushed forward through new framework conditions.
Such as taxes on flights?
That’s one example, yes. If I can fly to London and back for CHF 50, something is not right with the true-cost pricing. It would be important for as many countries as possible to pull together. Otherwise, people will just use more and more airports in neighbouring countries. In general, it's true to say that mobility is too cheap, including driving and travelling by public transport. However, simply influencing prices is too short-sighted.
What else could be done?
Society and the government can still do a lot for future mobility. I see a lot of potential in creating urban living areas that encompass work, shopping, restaurants and leisure activities, such as the Himmelrich construction project in Lucerne. This creates a lifestyle of "short distances". The individualisation of our world of work also has an impact here: home office, co-working and other forms of working reduce commuter traffic.