There’s no getting around it: when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, transport is not doing well. In the UK, domestic transport emits more carbon than any other sector. To put this poor performance in context, while emissions from the 'energy supply' sector have fallen by 62 per cent since 1990, emissions from transport have fallen by just three per cent. The good news is that the Government has recognised this and resolved to act.
In March, in a document that we called “rather impressive”, it acknowledged that current policies to decarbonise transport don't go far enough. Specifically it said that electric cars - while important - aren't a silver bullet: we also need to be making fewer journeys by car and more by public transport, on foot and by bike.
How can this be achieved? Well, the Government wants your suggestions.
In the next stage of its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, the Government is asking the public what should be done to shrink transport’s carbon footprint.
Here at Campaign for Better Transport, we hope that as many people as possible will take this chance to speak up for sustainable transport. Let’s show how much we care about buses, trains and trams, walking and cycling, car-sharing and zero-emission vehicles. And let’s remind the Government too that sometimes we’d like to travel less – how about building communities with high streets we can walk to, for instance, rather than out-of-town retail parks?
How to have your say
The Government is running a public consultation, which is actually a fairly short and friendly questionnaire. No expert knowledge is needed, and you’re not expected to write an essay – the spaces for answers are just few lines long, though they expand if you have more to say.
What to mention
Of course, what you mention is up to you. But here are a few suggestions…
Zero-emission vehicles have an important part to play in decarbonising transport…
- Fossil-fuelled cars and vans have had their day. Government should incentivise us to go electric, and make sure there are enough charge points for all who need them.
- Electric and hydrogen buses can make bus travel greener than ever – and how about manufacturing them in the UK?
- Let’s electrify the railways and introduce hydrogen fuel cell trains.
But… did you know that in 2019, only just over three per cent of new cars sold were battery-powered or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles? So electric cars alone won’t be enough to shrink transport’s carbon footprint.
In the questionnaire you’ll come across questions like: ‘What do you think government should be doing to reduce the greenhouse gases that are produced from cars?’ At first glance this looks like a question about electric vehicles. But remember, we can also reduce emissions from cars by using them less. So the most important thing we hope you’ll mention when you fill in the questionnaire is ‘modal shift’, which just means travelling by one mode of transport rather than another. The real question is: what would need to change in order for you, your family and your neighbours to catch the bus or train, to walk, cycle or use shared transport, rather than driving?
- Better connections
Maybe you don’t have a train station or bus stop nearby, or the services are infrequent, slow or unreliable. In your answers you might mention new (or reopened) rail stations, brilliant bus lanes or safe cycle corridors as things that would enable you to leave the car at home.
- More affordable travel
If you own a car, it can feel hard to justify paying for a ticket to use a less carbon-emitting mode. You might decide to call on the Government to make bus and rail fares more affordable, fairer and simpler. How about a payment method that works across different modes and different operators, the way ‘contactless payment’ works in London? And how about part-time rail season tickets, so people who don’t travel into work every day get a fair deal?
- Travelling less
You might like to write about things that would enable you to travel less. The trend toward car-dependent, out-of-town shopping could be flipped by building new housing with local shops and services close at hand. And what would enable you to work from home more, or choose a UK holiday over foreign travel?
Fill in the Government's questionnaire… then please let us know
We hope that armed with these ideas and your own, you'll head over to the Government’s questionnaire and fill it in. We think this is a unique opportunity to help secure a sustainable transport future. After you’ve done that, we’d be very grateful if you could head back here and fill in our very short form to tell us that you’ve responded to the consultation. This will help us to show that there's a strong movement speaking out for sustainable transport.