CO2 fumes

Monday Musings: The race to decarbonise transport is on and the parking sector is playing a key role

This week, Public Affairs and Communications Officer, Sarah Greenslade looks at the process of decarbonisation in UK transport and the parking sector's role in the transition.  

Last month’s eagerly awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan had surprisingly little media coverage especially as it had been long-awaited. It covers not only road transport; cars, vans, and public transport, but also rail and domestic shipping and flights. It comes on the back of the government announcing in November that the sale of diesel and petrol vans and cars will end by 2030.

The Plan has largely been welcomed and seen as another milestone however, critics have also picked up on some weaknesses.  KPMG UK's Vice-Chair and Head of Energy and Natural Resources, Simon Virley said: "what is noticeable is the absence of measures to reduce demand, such as road pricing, or use of green taxes to encourage consumers to switch to low carbon alternatives."

For example, it contrasts with the EU Green Deal plans, which also happened to be published in July and envisage a much greater role for green taxes to reduce pollution. The Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) lead for the Environmental Justice Commission, Luke Murphy is concerned about the lack of additional funding to support a switch to more affordable and clean transport alternatives to cut overall car use and wants the government to commit to reviewing the £27bn roads programme.

That said, the publishing of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan is a key milestone to achieving net-zero by 2050 to help mitigate the climate crisis. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of the UK’s total domestic greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 were from cars and vans. And worryingly one of the IPPR’s many predictions (based on analysis of the Climate Change Committee 2021) is an expected increase of over 10m vehicles from 34m to 43m by 2050. These will at least be without tailpipe emissions though.  So how can we decarbonise the way we travel from A to B, the way we deliver goods and services so that the global temperature does not rise by more than 1.5 degrees?

During the pandemic, I heard on a few occasions people say ‘A crisis accelerates the future…’ and, as we now know this has been true in the world of parking and traffic management. The amount of change in our sector has been mind-boggling, exciting, and unnerving at times - change often is after all. 

The need for parking and traffic management services is here to stay for sure. In fact, modeling worryingly predicts that by 2050 the UK transport sector will only have decarbonised by 50%, missing the 2050 net-zero target by 30 years.  The Plan states simply that, ‘it will be essential to avoid a car-led recovery.’

2015: a pivotal year

Did you know that the UK transport sector overtook the energy sector as the biggest emitter of CO2 in 2015?  This explains why since 2015 there has been much more attention paid to the transport sector. Coincidentally, this is when the diesel-gate scandal happened and the Paris Agreement was signed to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to just 1.5 degrees.

Since 2015 larger cars have become increasingly popular, with SUV sales continuing to rise. The population has also increased as has the number of delivery vehicles from 10 percent to 17 percent. All these things have sadly canceled out the good progress made on reducing CO2 emissions up until that point.

To top it all, the government’s figures on calculating the carbon footprint of an EV currently don’t include the carbon emissions for generating the electricity for EVs. 

What is the parking sector doing to help decarbonise transport?

There are many positive steps being taken in the parking sector to avoid a fossil fuel car-led recovery. Here are just a few:

  • Local authorities procuring EV charge point installations
  • Supporting Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones
  • Supporting Park Active to encourage active onward travel to the final destination
  • Creating interoperable hubs - e-cargo deliveries, solar power generation, active onward travel, more secure cycle parking
  • Investing in public transport – focus on long journeys, which is the bigger issue
  • Helping the car-sharing and carpooling market to grow rapidly
  • Using the digital revolution in parking data to help manage vehicle emissions, and
  • Civil enforcement and camera technology to stop idling, including outside schools

The parking sector has shown it can adapt quickly to changing circumstances over the last 18 months and over this time it has had an increasingly important role in the expansion and development of EV chargepoints, active travel, interoperable hubs, clean air zones, and data standards, ensuring our continued relevance to reducing CO2 emissions.  

Invest now to save later

20% of the population is responsible for 80% of carbon emissions so it’s important that our route to decarbonisation is fair and focuses on how to make it as easy as possible for this 20% to change their behavior. Common sense tells us that investing now to avoid temperatures rising above 1.5C will be far less costly than dealing with the consequences if they do, such as the damage caused by extreme weather. Chris Stark, head of the government’s advisers, Climate Change Committee estimates the cost of getting to net-zero by 2050 would mean just a four-month delay in economic growth over 30 years and that is without taking into consideration the wider benefits to society. He says that given the alternative – climate chaos – "I would argue we can’t afford not to do net-zero.” The Treasury’s review of the costs of the net-zero transition is due to be published soon, which may reveal more about how the transport and traffic management sector will be supported. 

Support for local authorities

Over 300 local authorities have declared the urgent need to act on the causes and impacts of climate change - that’s 70%. The government has said it will publish a toolkit by the end of this year to help local authorities build business cases, develop sustainable transport policies, secure funding, and implement their plans.  This will help local authorities include in their Local Transport Plan how they reduce carbon emissions in transport locally, for example by creating cycling and walking corridors.

The BPA encourages and supports all its members to reduce CO2 emissions.

Decarbonising transport: a better, greener Britain, July 2021

Climate Change Committee Progress Report to Parliament, June 2021

Once you understand the terrible cost of doing nothing, climate action is a bargain. Guardian, August 2021

All aboard: A plan for fairly decarbonising how people travel, Institute for Public Policy Research, June 2021

'Clarity and confidence for the road ahead': Green economy reacts to Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Edie, July 2021

Delivering the European Green Deal, EU, July 2021

We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”  President Barack Obama, 2014