Smart Transport

'No time for delay – transport decarbonisation needs to start now'

Phil Goodwin

The eye-watering bill for the UK to reach carbon net zero by 2050 - forecast to be £1.4 trillion for the nation as a whole - will be dwarfed by the cost of failing to limit global warming, warned Professor Phil Goodwin, emeritus professor of transport at UCL and UWE.

Addressing an audience of transport specialists from regional and local government at yesterday's Smart Transport Conference, as well as the rail, freight and electric vehicle industries, he outlined the severe negative impact of climate change on GDP, as well as dangerous non-linear global consequences, such as disease, conflict, civil unrest, insurance breakdown and mass migration, and urged policy makers to act now.

A tonne of CO2 saved today represents 29 tonnes saved by 2050, whereas a tonne saved in 2049 is just one tonne saved before the net zero deadline - it’s the stock of carbon in the atmosphere, not carbon emissions that matter, said Goodwin (pictured).

“Making early reductions is much more powerful,” he said. “We need to focus on what we can do before 2030 not 2050.”

This undermines the case that electric vehicles provide the panacea for decarbonising transport, given that the average life of a car is 14 years. This summer’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan was clear that “we will use cars less” confirmed Bob Moran, head of environmental strategy at the Department for Transport.

The DfT is finalising a toolkit for local authorities to execute a modal shift in travel choices, moving people away from private cars and towards active and shared travel, as well as promoting higher car occupancy rates, said Moran.

Creating a vision of the spaces and places where we want to live and work is central to these aims; once public consensus is established, the policies required to deliver them become clearer to design and easier to promote, said Martin Tugwell, chief executive, Transport for the North.

For local authorities to deliver these objectives, however, requires a devolution of powers and funds so they have “control of routes, fares and frequency” of public transport, said Polly Billington, director, UK100.

The challenge, said Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, is to bring all of these elements together to create a transport system that enables people to travel with the convenience and freedom delivered by the internal combustion engine, “but in a way that does not cost the Earth.”

Smart Transport National Conference 2023

The UK’s largest two-day conference for senior private and public sector transport leaders and policymakers to work together to transform the UK’s transport network and achieve net zero will take place on 21 & 22 November 2023, The Eastside Rooms, Birmingham.

The high-level conference will bring together senior transport leaders who help shape transport policy and deliver its infrastructure.

It aims to promote best in class initiatives from the private and public sector and bring people together through networking, knowledge transfer and discussion and is seen as UK's largest, trusted and most credible transport conference to facilitate public and private sector collaboration.

The agenda will deliver a speaker faculty of 80+ expert speakers, including senior transport politicians, from the UK and beyond. And we expect an audience of 300+ delegates to attend. 

Speakers come from authorities and organisations such as: The Department for Transport, England’s Economic Heartland, Birmingham City Council, Transport for West Midlands, Midlands Connect, TIER Mobility, CoMoUK, Lambeth Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Enterprise Holdings, FedEx, Worldline and Cornwall Council.

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November 2022 conference video highlights

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  • Dr Alex Rowbotham - 15/12/2021 10:27

    £1.4 trillion. That's what HS2 could end up costing. I have an idea........

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