Rising to the Challenge. April 2021
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
The title of this news item has been taken unashamedly from the recently published important report Rising to the Challenge: Achieving net zero will require new thinking, creative solutions and systematic change. The report is the work of a Greener Transport Council of leading experts in partnership with Transport Times and grant aided by the Foundation for Integrated Transport.
The nine page report makes powerful reading, introduced by a stark statement from Claire Haigh of Greener Transport Solutions: ‘The climate crisis is already hitting worst case scenario levels that if left unchecked will lead to the collapse of entire ecosystems. Our thinking needs to change if we are to rise to the scale of the challenge.’
Five key themes emerged from the report:
1.The decarbonisation of transport will involve changes to the wider economy.
2. Technical solutions will be insufficient, we also need behaviour change. 3. Fares and taxes should encourage people to make lower carbon travel choices.
4. We must ensure a fair and just transition to net zero. 5. Greater devolution will be a key driver of decarbonisation.
However, the key question still remains; How are we going to achieve all this? A monumental start was made in 2019 when the government made a bold commitment to the UK having a net zero economy by 2050. Then along came the Covid pandemic and the emergency measures need to tackle it. That crisis now hopefully moving behind us, but at the same time the equally serious crisis of a climate emergency continues to gather quick momentum.
An early switch by government to an integrated handling of this crisis is now needed. But from government we continue to have a fragmented approach to transport and still no national transport policy firmly linked to tackling the climate emergency. We have instead:
The continuation of a £25bn Roads Investment Plan and a gross underestimation of carbon emissions from new road building.
No future rail policy. No committed electrification of the network. No policy for transferring freight to rail.
Continued rises in rail and bus passenger fares.
A fragmented national bus strategy without adequate long term funding for bus services.
A private electric vehicle roll out based on market forces, not practical mobility application.
A stubborn refusal to raise fuel duty.
Continued support for expansion of aviation and airports.
As the eighteenth century statesman, economist and philosopher Edmund Burke said: ‘Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.’