Tell Councils How to Achieve 50% Active Travel Target – CCC
The DfT should tell councils how to achieve the aim of 50% of journeys in towns and cities being cycled or walked by 2030, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) says in its June 2022 assessment of the government’s progress on decarbonisation.
The 50% aim appears in the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan; and the CCC’s recommendation to the DfT is in the Annex to its June 2022 Progress Report.
The CCC recommends that guidance to local authorities as to how to achieve the 50% aim should be set through Active Travel England, and accompanied by the required funding.
Strong on Targets, Weak on Delivery
In his Foreword to the Progress Report, Lord Deben says that the the government is strong on targets but weak on delivery.
‘In its targets, the UK is indeed a world leader. However, this Progress Report reveals that, despite important achievements in renewable energy and electric vehicles, the Government is failing much of its implementation…the UK’s international leadership in commitments will only be effective if the world knows that we will keep our word…’lord deben in the foreword to the ccc 2022 progress report
In terms of targets, the UK is one of few countries that is in line with the Paris Agreement.
Bright spots in terms of delivery include renewable electricity and electric cars; otherwise we are not seeing the necessary progress. There is no public engagement strategy.
The government’s Net Zero Strategy does not include any measures to reduce demand for high-carbon diets or aviation. The government is relying heavily on technological solutions, and focusing much less on efficiency and demand-reduction.
Progress on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- down 47% on 1990 levels
- down 10% on pre-pandemic levels, but
- up 4% in 2021 vs 2020
The last of these figures represents a rebound after the pandemic.
The largest single source of UK emissions is surface transport, at 23%, and cars are responsible for most of those emissions.
Surface transport emissions were flat (no increase or decrease) between 2010 and 2019 (p115 of the Progress Report).
They dropped 19% during the pandemic, due to lockdown restrictions, then increased by 10% in 2021 vs 2020; they remain 11% below 2019 levels.
Average emissions from petrol and diesel cars have risen for the last 2 years. Efficiency improvements have been more than offset by the trend to larger and heavier vehicles, and no action has been taken by the government to address this.
The CCC Progress Report constantly muddles up ‘traffic reduction’ and ‘reduction in traffic growth’, which is really unhelpful.
It says that the government has acknowledged the need to limit traffic growth, but has not set a specific ambition or used all its available levers (p114).
One of the recommendations to the DfT is that it now sets out how it will achieve a reduction in traffic.
‘Reducing traffic is important as it can offer immediate emissions reductions while the fleet is transitioning to ZEVs, reduce the emissions associated with ZEV production, and deliver a range of ongoing co-benefits including lower congestion, better air quality, and cost savings.’p114 of the CCC June 2022 progress report
Weekday peak time car travel in Autumn 2021 remained 10% lower than pre-pandemic, but without proper policy to embed and build on this, it’s likely that road traffic levels will rise again. Van and HGV traffic is now above pre-pandemic levels, largely driven by more home deliveries.
‘The recognition of the need to reduce traffic growth, alongside funding for improved local public transport and active travel, are also positive steps. However, the Government has not yet set out a clear vision of the extent of traffic reduction that is desirable, nor a coherent set of policies to deliver this.’p130 of the ccc june 2022 progress report
The road-building budget in the Roads Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2) was cut at the recent Spending Review from £27bn to £24bn. Substantial road-building should only proceed if it can be justified that it fits with the UK’s Net Zero Strategy.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have both committed to no longer invest in road-building to cater for unconstrained increases in traffic volumes.
The UK must set out measurable targets for the contribution that reducing car travel will play in delivering the Net Zero Strategy (p145). The Planning Bill and revised Transport Analysis Guidance should both reflect these aims.
RIS3 must ensure that induced demand and lifetime emissions are adequately assessed (p145). The strategy should not aim to cater for unconstrained growth in road traffic and must be compatible with Net Zero.
As noted in the headline of this article, setting out how to achieve the aim that 50% of local trips will be made by active travel is a key recommendation of the CCC’s Progress Report.
‘The pandemic saw an increase in people walking and cycling for leisure. Clearer policy and guidance will be needed to realise the opportunity to embed some of these positive shifts.’p136 of the ccc june 2022 progress report
The CCC notes that electric bike sales increased by 70% in 2020 to 170,000. E-bikes can extend the scope of modal shift to active travel, but dedicated cycle lanes are needed.
Vision and Validate
The CCC Progress Report identifies Transport Analysis Guidance as a problem. It should be reformed to ensure it enables decisions that are consistent with the Net Zero pathway.
‘DfT should consider whether a “vision and validate” approach to future transport system might be more appropriate than a “predict and provide” one in this context.’recommendations to the dft, ccc june 2022 progress report