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How are we going to ‘decarbonise’ our transport?

  • by JW

Translating plans into action.


How are we going to ‘decarbonise’ our transport? How are we going to get around without relying on petrol/diesel/coal-powered electricity? How are we going to find viable alternatives to travel?


Today’s posting on the Sidmouth SolarPunk pages looked at the leafy, people-friendly streets of Utrecht – a city designed for cycling and mass mobility.

Devon county council is making very small steps with its proposals to improve walking and cycling facilities around Exmouth railway station, ‘reducing the town’s reliance on cars’, so it hopes.

Meanwhile, Exeter’s transport decarbonisation programme is not going very well – although the city has introduced pedestrian/bike- friendly schemes at Heavitree and elsewhere, which has been facing some public backlash.


What more inspiring actions and proposals could speed up ‘decarbonisation’ of transport?

We don’t have to use a push-bike: the e-bike can help decarbonise transport

We need access to good public transport – which would mean we would also need to seriously reinvest in local public transport – especially if we are to ensure the viability of the rural economy and the impact on rural life.

We do need to be having frank discussions about the carbon footprint of Electric Vehicles and about the issues around E-scooters.

And we need to discuss the wisdom of expanding Bristol airport – and, besides, choosing a slower travel option might actually be more enjoyable: “Going flight-free means dumping airport stress altogether in favour of slower, more peaceful train travel.


What inspiring actions and proposals is the government proposing for the ‘decarbonisation’ of transport?

Two years ago, the government came up with its Transport Decarbonisation Plan 2021 – but it was no plan for modal shift, no plan for decarbonisation of individual polluting modes and sectors.

Two weeks ago, the government published its long-awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan 2023 – which at 213 pages should provide a little more detail. And there is even praise for individual polluting modes and sectors, for example:

Since the Mayor of London launched the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019, it has had a significant
impact on reducing the number of older more polluting vehicles that enter London’s central zone… the ULEZ had a significant impact on air quality, with an observed increase in the rate at which older vehicles were removed from the fleet, or replaced, above the normal churn

However, beyond the politics and the hype, there is still not enough detail, not enough data, not enough transparency:

The government recently blocked the release of the carbon emission figures behind its transport decarbonisation plan. It blocked academics from seeing the figures, which include data on how much car use would have to be reduced in order to reach net zero commitments.

To finish, here is an excellent paper from KPMG on decarbonisation of transport and infrastructure, which reminds us that the transport sector accounts for more than a fifth of carbon emissions globally – including the UK.

And whilst the government has released its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, this is not enough:

However, the hard work is only just beginning. In some senses, what has been achieved so far is the easy part. The real challenge, as ever, is translating strategies into action – And, according to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that action needs to be “swift and drastic” in order to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The author of the KMPG report Melani Bose looks at three issues to translate plans into action:

  • Net zero is not just a technical problem
  • Change need not equal loss
  • Navigating uncertainty requires flexibility and innovative first-principle thinking

Because there’s a huge amount of frustration out there from the main players – from the car industry, from the rail freight sector, from engineering professionals