Cathy Macharis / Professor

VUB-MOBI research center / Sustainable Mobility and Logistics

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At the research centre MOBI of the VUB, which I am coordinating together with my colleague and partner Prof. Joeri Van Mierlo, we are working with a team of more than 100 researchers on sustainable mobility and logistics. We are very concerned, as we see that the transition towards a more sustainable mobility and logistics system is extremely slow. The transport sector is responsible of 32% of the CO2 emission and due to a continuously increase of the demand for transport it has difficulties in lowering its climate impact. In our group we have been working on a lot projects which would allow for a more sustainable system: more Awareness, Avoidance, Act and Shift, Anticipation of new technologies and Actor involvement.
I try of course to walk the talk. In Brussels I am not travelling by car anymore. I go by public transport or by bike and I am also testing the new mobility concepts of car sharing, ride sharing and bike sharing. At home, we have an electric and a plug-in hybrid car which I can use when needed. Last year, I challenged myself and did not buy new clothes or shoes for a year and since that experience, buying clothes is no longer a habit or something I find fun to do.
I also, since 4 years, engaged myself to lead the sustainability of the university as a whole. A sustainability board was set up and we follow the vision of the whole institution approach. It means working on the four main axes of the university and let them enforce each other: education, research, operations of the university itself and outreach. We are working at the moment on a roadmap to get a climate neutral university by 2030. A travel policy plan been recently been adopted at the VUB to compensate the CO2 impact of all aircraft flights of the VUB and to make the VUB staff aware of the impact of air traffic and to look for alternatives such as rail transport and teleconferencing.
What worries me, is that I encounter still a lot of people who do not see the sense of urgency. And so do not see the need to act. Political or individual interests often lie in the short term where a concrete measures are needed in the long term for which action must be taken now!