And how understanding this can help us kick-start the green transition
Before COVID-19, the mayoral candidate of New City had a vision: to replace car lanes with bicycle paths and tree-lined pedestrian boulevards. The plan aimed to encourage calmer walking and biking right at the core of New City. As COVID-19 happened in early 2020, the now mayor took a swift approach to implement the plan. Soft temporary barriers, plants and benches were placed, and former car lanes were repainted and repurposed.
A few months later, the results were disappointing. Post-lockdown meant an increase in traffic which resulted in increased congestion. The paint on the street lanes wore off and was soon overtaken by parked automobiles. The opposition criticised the government for fast-tracking the project without proper planning considerations. The project ended up being viewed as a personal project of the Mayor. Local ‘green’ champions rued the loss of momentum and opportunity of an initiative that, at first, held all the characteristics to improve the lives of citizens and reduce car emissions.
The fictitious story of ‘New City’ above can serve as a cautionary tale to any government aiming to deliver its own ‘green transition’ in the next years. Unfortunately, the signals from climate science could not be clearer: we don’t have the luxury of implementing trial and error policies and risk further delay in transforming our economies towards carbon neutrality. We have ten years to avoid worst-case scenarios and decisively transform the world economy – there is no margin for costly mistakes.So, why even well-intentioned, well-designed policies fail? And what can we do about it?