The UK is 'highly unlikely' to reach its 2050 net zero target without integrated transport and land use planning, according to a new report by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
The report, Net Zero Transport: the role of spatial planning and place-based solutions, calls for a ‘place-based approach’ which prioritises measures to reduce the need to travel and encourages people to shift to more active, public and shared modes of transport.
James Harris, RTPI policy manager, said: “Transport decarbonisation will require a transformation of how we plan, design and use space, and how we live and move around.
"Switching to alternative fuels like electric vehicles is important, but this alone does little to tackle problems of car dependency or help places recover from Covid-19.
“Decarbonising transport should be a catalyst for a radical change in planning.
"We must ensure that growth generates no new transport emissions, enabling local authorities to deliver comprehensive measures which cut carbon while creating better places.
"This will be challenging, but will ultimately create healthier, safer and more equitable communities.”
To show what a place-based approach might look like, the report models four different ficitional places. These demonstrate key steps for reducing transport emissions, including planning for ‘carbon negative growth zones’ and networks of 15-minute neighbourhoods where most people can meet their daily needs by walking and cycling.
This approach reduces the number and length of journeys made on a daily basis, resulting in carbon savings while improving public health.
To make active travel the 'natural choice' for most short trips, the report recommends that streets be repurposed as places for play and social interaction.
Access and parking for most private vehicles should be restricted, the RTPI says, with sustainable transport becoming the most convenient and affordable option.
Public transport use will also need to increase significantly above pre-Covid levels to reduce transport emissions, particularly for medium and long-distance journeys, according to the RTPI.
Frazer Osment, chair of LDA Design, which carried out the research along with City Science and Vectos, said: “This research highlights the scale of the challenge facing us in reducing emissions from transport.
"It also shows that we cannot declare a climate emergency and yet continue to plan for growth that puts more carbon into the atmosphere.
"We need to be bold and put decarbonisation at the heart of planning, starting with a net zero vision in every area and working backwards to plan, design and deliver great places that achieve that vital objective.”