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  • Report
  • 4th Apr 2022

Applying Behavioural Insights to Reduce Commuting Emissions

Globally, transport emissions are rising faster than those in any other sector. In Canada alone, transportation accounted for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, a 16% increase from 2005 levels. How people get to work contributes to this issue.

For many, there just aren’t good alternatives to driving. Structural issues, such as a lack of convenient and reliable public transportation, and cognitive barriers, such as following the status quo, make adopting new habits difficult.

COVID-19 has forced change. The proportion of teleworkers in Canada increased from 4% pre-pandemic to 32% at the beginning of 2021. As restrictions are lifting and more people return to working in-person, this disruption to pre-existing habits offers a window of opportunity. We can reset how we commute.

In this report for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), we outline 19 evidence-based recommendations to encourage environmentally-friendly commuting behaviours as we recover from the pandemic. Both behaviorally-informed policy changes and complementary “nudges” are included to help tackle the challenge.

Download the report

Key recommendations

  • Make public transportation faster than driving. The strongest policy solution in our report is to invest in public transit infrastructure. Be it building a major transit line or transitioning to a zero emission bus fleet, leveraging infrastructure investments is a sound strategy to help shift behaviour long term.
  • Provide personalized travel plans at moments of transition. A complementary nudge can leverage moments of transition (e.g., moving, starting a new job, or returning to in-person work). Personalized travel plans outlining employees’ transportation options and incentives can help overcome two common cognitive barriers: lack of knowledge and availability bias (i.e., choosing what you know about already), and ultimately encourage greener commuting.

These recommendations are just the beginning. Download the full report for all 19 evidence-based recommendations and explore how we can make commuting choices more sustainable with behavioral insights.

Download the full report


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