Greening the Islands Foundation

GTI Observatory Report – Ships, Ports, Cars and Bikenomics: Sustainable Mobility on Islands

The GTI Observatory Report is a comprehensive work that looks at the main challenges faced by islands along their decarbonization path, analyzing sector by sector the problems with a focus on technology, policy, and finance. With the involvement of the Observatory members and partners, it identifies the most innovative and sustainable solutions and presents the latest good practices. This month, we focus on Transportation. The Report also includes Water, Energy, Waste, Agriculture, Tourism, and Air quality. Stay tuned for a new blog every month and become a member to access the full report and learn more about challenges and opportunities for islands’ sustainability and self-sufficiency. 


The GTI Observatory Report finds intriguing insights on islands’ mobility that promise a cleaner and more sustainable future for island communities. Mobility is vital for islands, but decarbonizing the sector requires comprehensive strategies. Transformation requires upgrading both transport vehicles and infrastructure, with policies and initial subsidies playing a critical role in jumpstarting the process. Once island communities and tourists experience the benefits of innovative and greener modes of transport, private investments will likely accelerate this transition.

The full GTI Report 2022: “Integrated Sustainability for Island Self-sufficiency” is reserved for GTI Members.

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The Problem? Island Mobility Can Be A Carbon Conundrum

The International Energy Agency has identified transport as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 37% of end-use sector emissions. In the European Union, maritime transport alone accounts for 3-4% of CO2 emissions. The transport sector plays a pivotal role on islands, that need to maintain connections with the mainland, but it presents significant challenges to their wellbeing. 

Inland transportation predominantly relies on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, resulting in strong dependence on fossil fuels. This dependence leads to increased emissions of CO2 and harmful pollutants like sulfur and nitrogen oxides, as well as particulate matter (PM). 

Additionally, it results in high shipping costs due to the need for fuel. Islands often face space limitations, making traditional road networks inadequate for accommodating a large number of vehicles. Consequently, traffic congestion can become a frequent issue, especially during peak touristic seasons. 

Furthermore, maritime mobility is a crucial component of the island’s transportation landscape. Ports, which are often located near urban areas, are known for their high pollution levels, negatively impacting the well-being of residents by compromising air quality.  However, the evidence collected by GTI and its partners suggests that solutions have been found for decarbonizing every facet of mobility, and they are ripe for implementation.

From Hydrogen Valleys to Cold Ironing: Green Innovation Re-powering the Islands

The Observatory Report includes several island case studies that illustrate the potential of green hydrogen, including as a mobility solution. In the Orkney Islands, hydrogen is produced locally, powering the world’s first zero-emission sea ferry. Meanwhile, in Mallorca, solar panels produce hydrogen, which is used to fuel vessels, buses, heat hotels, and more. Helgoland aims to replace oil with green hydrogen for power generation and shipping, advancing toward its target of becoming a net-zero island by 2030. 

One of the most pressing issues fro islands is that large ships in harbours continue to pollute to keep the power on, stressing the need to electrify ports’ infrastructure. From the Hydrogen Valley concept, which extends beyond industrial services to include ports, airports, and industrial hubs, to the innovative cold ironing practice for ships to connect to shore power sources to reduce pollution during their berthing phase, multiple solutions exist to reduce emissions from the transport sector. 

Bikenomics: Cycling Towards Sustainability

For small islands, cycling emerges as an ideal alternative. Small islands grapple with unique challenges such as traffic congestion and environmental concerns due to their limited space and reliance on traditional modes of transportation. These can lead to pollution, overdevelopment, and increased carbon emissions, highlighting the pressing need for innovative and sustainable solutions, such as cycling and e-biking, to alleviate these problems and promote a more eco-friendly and efficient way of living and experiencing the islands.

Bicycles offer health benefits, reduce pollution, save money, and create jobs. As part of the European masterplan for cycling, steps are being taken to improve cycling infrastructure across Europe. But what about islands? The Report looks into two case studies of islands looking to do away with a car-centric culture. 

Conclusion: A Green Path Forward

The Report shows that viable solutions are already available, and best practices from islands and the mainland can be replicated to speed up the green transition. The GTI Observatory is committed for collaboration among islands, which can further reduce costs and administrative burdens, making the transition to green mobility a reality.

Ready to change your island’s mobility? 

Dive deep into our study for further insights.

Part of our Report, is an in-depth study looking at islands revolutionising mobility. Discover more below in our overview. Become a member to access the report, which will offer full insights into the matter as well as innovations and best practices to improve green mobility.

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