This blog was written by Malcolm Powers, Member of the RCAN Communications Team and a Consultant working with local authorities on climate change.
What is happening at COP26 today?
Today at COP26 the focus is on transport. Globally, 10% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are caused by road transport and they are rising more rapidly than those of any other sector. If we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement there needs to be a rapid transition away from cars, vans and lorries powered by fossil fuels. And that transition needs to focus not only on switching to zero emission vehicles but also encouraging a shift to more journeys by public transport, walking and cycling.
What are we doing to reduce emissions from transport in the UK?
In the UK, transport is the largest sector for domestic emissions and there has been very little progress since 1990 in reducing emissions. Even during 2020 when we were under COVID-19 lockdown, carbon dioxide emissions from transport only fell by 20% compared to 2019. As well as GHG emissions, pollutants from vehicles are the major cause of poor air quality. While the Government is committed to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2035, there is more that can be done. Reducing the number of journeys taken by car over the next decade and encouraging a shift to walking and cycling has been shown to improve physical and mental health.
What are we doing in Reading?
Reading has seen significant investment in the transport network in recent years with an increasing level of sustainable transport provision.
Reading enjoys an extensive bus network with a modern, clean fleet using bio-gas fuel. The town has bucked the national trend for bus use. While bus use reduced across England by 0.7% in 2018/19, in Reading, it rose by 4.2%.
Provision for active travel has increased with a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Thames as well as a planned segregated cycle route along the Shinfield Road.
How do we get to zero carbon transport?
How we get about in the future will be critical to meeting the goal of a zero carbon Reading by 2030. Careful planning to ensure that jobs, shops and leisure facilities are close to where people live will reduce the need to travel. However, we will all need to make decisions about flying less, driving less, and using public transport, walking or cycling for most journeys. But if we do so, the benefits will be enormous. We will be fitter, healthier, our air will be cleaner and money that is currently being spent on maintaining our roads could be freed up for other much needed public services.