By Betul Kahya

The increasing occurrence of extreme climate events and changing weather patterns have taken climate change from debate to reality in recent years. It’s now evident that the global average temperature increase of more than 1.5°C in the next decades will have severe and adverse impacts on ecosystems, global health, water and food security, and biodiversity. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Climate Change 2021 report,  the world is going through unprecedented changes in climate that the  world has not seen“in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.” The worst part is that many of these changes that have begun are irrevocable over very long periods of time, which may amount to longer than civilization existed on the planet. 

The Paris Agreement, which is a climate change treaty currently adopted by 196 parties across the world, urges countries to take climate action to limit global warming below 2°C and preferably to 1.5°C as opposed to pre-industrial levels. However, we are unlikely to limit global warming to around 1.5°C or even at 2°C unless we immediately implement fast and large-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. Many cities and organizations around the world are adopting sustainability solutions and innovative approaches to reduce GHG emissions. 

One of the areas that need climate action the most is transportation. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that 14% of GHG emissions by sector and almost one-fourth of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion come from transportation. Despite dropping significantly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdown, transportation emissions are on the rise again. One of the most direct impacts of transportation emissions is air pollution, which is responsible for more than 6 million premature deaths and other diseases annually. 

When it comes to addressing climate change, one of the most effective tools in reducing GHG emissions are regulations and policies. Regulations such as fuel standards have been effective in improving the environmental impact of vehicles; however, given the climate change threat, there is a need for more stringent regulation. Some urban cities, such as Zurich, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris, Seoul, and London, are already proactively implementing new policies to curb vehicle emissions. For instance, London is implementing a congestion charge, Low Emission Zones, and Ultra-Low Emissions Zones as well as improving and expanding their public transportation systems. Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) is also gaining popularity with the increasing adoption of pay-per-use mobility services such as ride-sharing/hailing, public transport, and car rentals. MaaS platforms can promote more sustainable mobility behavior while helping reduce congestion.

Major vehicle manufacturers across the globe – including Ford, General Motors, Toyota, BMW, Volvo, and Renault -set goals for zero-carbon mobility. Meanwhile, Tesla, Honda, and Volkswagen have set ambitious EV sales goals. Electric vehicles are one of the most promising solutions when it comes to achieving zero-carbon mobility. However, EV sales make up only 3% of car sales worldwide, and the speed of adoption is falling short of the scale of response needed to address the climate crisis. In addition, it is important that the energy sourced to power electric vehicles are from renewable energy resources, but the grid mix varies greatly depending on region/state. 

While most of the efforts to reduce the environmental impact of mobility have been focused on the use phase of the vehicle so far, it is essential to implement emissions and waste reduction strategies over the entire life cycle of the vehicle, including EV batteries. Now, we are seeing increasing efforts by automakers, and suppliers to reduce waste and emissions through the supply chain, especially in manufacturing processes. A McKinsey study projects that 60% of vehicle life-cycle emissions will be from production by 2040. But to achieve the goal of keeping the rise in global temperature at or below 1.5°C, we need to accelerate efforts to make supply chains greener and more circular.

There is an urgent need to accelerate the decarbonization of transportation and smart mobility will play a key role. Digital technologies such as blockchain, IoT, AI, and data analytics will help develop or facilitate novel smart mobility solutions and scale existing ones to fight climate change. While making mobility more sustainable, these technologies will also unlock potential value by making mobility safer and more efficient. Decentralized identities and digital payments will play a key role in building connected mobility ecosystems and smart mobility use cases/applications.

Enabled by IoT, decentralized identities in combination with blockchain will enable vehicles, users, service providers, and other entities in smart mobility networks to exchange information and transact seamlessly and securely. This way, users will be able to smoothly access transportation services, multi-modal trip coordination, peer-to-peer mobility applications, pay-per-use mobility, and incentives to discourage congestion and carbon emissions. In addition, blockchain allows for increased transparency and traceability which can enable tracking emissions even at the individual vehicle level. Finally, by eliminating or reducing the number of middlemen, it can increase efficiency and reduce human error.

Enabling these capabilities on smart mobility platforms of the future requires an innovative way to verify a trip. MOBI and members are developing the “Trusted Trip,” which is a trip completed or in progress by a roaming entity or device (such as a person, vehicle, smartphone, car battery, package, or part), whose attributes are validated by authorized entities/devices in a smart mobility services platform. By leveraging distributed ledger and IoT technology, the Trusted Trip combines an entity’s verifiable digital identity and unique position in space and time.

The verification process of the Trusted Trip involves a minimum set of industry-accepted proofs relevant to the attributes of the trip presented by the entity or device managing the trip without revealing private information to the verifier. Depending on the use case, it will use specific proofs such as “proof of emissions” for carbon emissions tracking. The Trusted Trip will enable scaling and monetization of new and existing use cases in smart and low-carbon mobility, such as verifying emissions claims to issue carbon credits/offsets and more.  

If you’re interested in learning more about decarbonization and MOBI Trusted Trip, be sure to register for our 29 September Community Innovation Lecture with MOBI Co-director and Founder, Tram Vo. Tram will discuss MOBI Trusted Trip and how it promises to transform the global mobility ecosystem.