New report: Fundamental change needed to decarbonise transport

A report introduced to coincide with the launch a new body aiming to accelerate transport decarbonisation says that a ‘whole systems approach’ is needed. This approach will have to reflect the shift to digital connectivity, and the integration of transport with land-use planning, energy and green finance to achieve decarbonisation. 

Following the publication of the study ‘Rising to the Challenge‘, Greener Transport Solutions aims to build a Manifesto for Decarbonising Transport

The work will be overseen by the Greener Transport Council of leading experts Including Zemo Partnership Managing Director, Andy Eastlake. Its aim is to develop a credible and deliverable framework for decarbonising transport, and to build support for some of the politically challenging solutions needed if we are to achieve net zero

The report says that achieving net zero is a “colossal challenge and significantly more challenging than government’s previous target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.”

Greener Transport Solutions’ study says that fundamental policy changes will be needed.  Five key themes have emerged from the report which has been informed (through a partnership with Transport Times) by detailed contributions from 55 leading academics, politicians, business leaders, environmental groups and think tanks. 

The five key themes were:

  1. The decarbonisation of transport cannot occur without changes to the wider economy. We need a whole-systems approach that reflects the shift to digital connectivity, and the integration of transport with land-use planning, energy and green finance.
  2. Technical solutions will be insufficient; we also need behaviour change. The 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans is welcome but it is estimated that we will still need to reduce traffic on our roads by between 20% and 60% by 2030. 
  3. We must ensure that fares and taxes encourage people to make lower carbon travel choices. We need a reformulation of transport pricing.  The result of repeated failures of road taxation to cover externalities is that we over consume roads.  Potentially halving APD on domestic flights, combined with rail fare increases and the continued freeze in fuel duty all give precisely the wrong price signals to consumers.
  4. We must ensure that access to essential services, whether by transport or digital means, is available for all.  We need a fair and just transition to net zero. Improving the affordability and availability of public transport must be a key priority.  Nearly half of workless households have no access to a car. More targeted support is also needed to ensure that low income households are able to buy EVs.
  5. More devolution deals would drive faster delivery of UK wide net zero targets. Government should enable local areas to plan for sustainable growth on an integrated long-term basis and ensure that local authorities are sufficiently resourced. We need to reform transport funding, appraisal and governance so that local areas can plan for housing, jobs and transport on an integrated long-term basis.

Claire Haigh, Founder & CEO of Greener Transport Solutions (and a Zemo Partnership Board member), says: “A year ago the Department for Transport set out a vision for decarbonising transport that acknowledged we needed to use our cars less. 

“Whilst this focus is welcome, every aspect of how we plan for transport will need to change if people are to make more sustainable travel choices.  The decarbonisation of transport cannot occur without changes to the wider economy.   

“If Government is serious about achieving net zero, behaviour change must be at the heart of its strategy.  The Scottish Government has pledged a 20% cut in car kms by 2030.  The DfT’s forthcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan will need to include a similar 2030 commitment, along with a clear plan for how it can be delivered.”

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