Over the summer, the CitiCAP emissions trading application was brought to the test phase. The application automatically detects the user’s movement and the emissions it causes, as well as the purchase price.
Approximately 100 Lahti University of Applied Sciences polytechnic students registered for the first phase of the application. In addition, the project team members are involved in testing the application. The number of participants was limited by the fact that currently only the app version is suitable for Android phones but still accounts for around 466 active registered users by the end of October. The iOS version will be coming later this year alongside the fully developed marketplace which will be essential if they want to move on from the pilot phase.
In personal emissions trading, each user is assigned the permissible quantity of emissions in accordance with the city's emission reduction targets. The weekly emissions budget is consumed in a manner dependent on the user's mobility choices and clearly indicates that car usage is the least favourable option. So by choosing sustainable mobility modes, users can lower their emissions budgets and earn virtual money. The budget has been calculated for the standard user at 17kg of CO2 per week with people averaging around 21kg of CO2 per week. The permissible quantity of emissions varies on your personal circumstances, for example, where you live or whether you have children. Of the data that is available, the range of users emissions ranges quite significantly with some participants averaging over 100kg of CO2 per week and on the flip side, with some with practically none. It will be interesting to find out whether the high emitting persons will remain in the project as they will receive no benefits from the scheme. This is because when the emissions budget is exceeded, the savings dwindle, but they do not go on the minus side. With virtual money, it is possible to redeem them from local businesses as well as the city's services from the app's marketplace. In addition, as a relatively large number of users are below the threshold, there is the question whether the project will be financially sustainable for those businesses (in the long-term) who are part of the marketplace. The testing stage will not yet assess the functionality of the marketplace. However, during this phase, the city experienced a cyber attack on its IT systems which hampered the development of the PCT technology but luckily this did not stop the official launch of the application to the general public.
The launch happened on Wednesday 18 September and Saturday 21 September where residents had the opportunity to download the application on their phones at the city’s main Museum (Aleksanterinkatu 10). Visitors were introduced to the benefits that the app can bring to the future. Movie downloads and LSL (public transport) travel tickets were also distributed to app downloaders at the event.
The city is using the app to gather people’s views by using surveys to gather information on their mobility habits, preferences and opinions. This offers the opportunity to gain new insights into the mobility patterns of individuals and whether they are satisfied with the transport the city has to offer. It also offers an opportunity for the city to better plan their transport. For example, as the city will know the specific travel patterns of citizens, if say for instance a survey reveals that a group of citizens rate that they are not satisfied with public transport in a specific area of the city then the city knows that there is clearly a problem. Currently the surveys could have follow up questions but there if there was the option to ask why they were not happy (e.g. frequency of service, safety concerns, comfort or lack of offer for instance) then this can aid planning decisions and ultimately financial decision making.
It will be interesting to gauge the long-term buy-in of citizens as PCT often harnesses a mixed response. For instance, I presented the project at the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50) over June 17-27, 2019 at a side event that looked at innovative policy instruments to reduce emissions in the transport sector. The aim was to set the stage for raising ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate resilience-building efforts, and ensure that climate policy is built on a solid foundation of the best available science and knowledge. The reaction from the audience was mixed and split between PCT as a potential game changer in the fact that it could be applied to a range of areas, with the building sector being highlighted as a quick win solution with the use of smart metering technologies. In addition, it went beyond the purely technical approach with electrification of transport vehicles often viewed by some as the silver bullet solution to tackling transport emissions. In fact, it was noted for embracing the full ‘Avoid-Shift-Improve’ approach which is recognised as the most effective approach to reducing emissions in the transport sector. On the flip side others found the approach ‘a licence to pollute’ in the fact that you can simply pay to do so. What was interesting was the younger members of the audience taking a more favourable stance to PCT with older participants who took a more negative view.