The Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) Fair Transition Unit has published a report outlining how to ensure a fair national transition to a net zero transport system
The government needs to fine-tune its vision for improving the future of transport and should make the shift from cars to walking, cycling, and public transport more accessible if it wants to hit its net zero targets, the new report said.
The report, Where next? A briefing on uncertainty in transport’s path to net zero, warns there is considerable uncertainty over the future of the transport sector that is “being exacerbated by incoherent government policy”.
“Right now, we risk sleep walking towards a future where the inequalities in our transport system are entrenched rather than tackled,” said Becca Massey-Chase, IPPR principal research fellow. “Policymakers should seize the opportunity of the transition to net zero to improve people’s lives by enabling a wider shift from cars to walking, cycling and public transport.”
The IPPR urged the government to “embed a more equitable vision for the future of transport” in its net zero strategy. Specifically, it called on government to establish a national strategy for delivering net zero transport that provides direction, coordination, investment, and coherent communication to shape public behaviour, transport demand, the application of new technology, and sector activity.
The think tank outlined a number of policy recommendations that could deliver a “more desirable future of transport”, including promoting more active travel, such as cycling and walking, and placing public transport at the heart of the transport system. It added that there should also be better planning, more local amenities, jobs, and enhanced digital infrastructure to reduce the need for regular long-distance travel, reports Business Green.
It also advised that road use by personal vehicles should be curbed, electric vehicles (EVs) should be made available to anyone who needs them, and shared mobility schemes and alternatives should be set up to reduce the need to drive. If there were less cars on the road, then more street space could be allocated to cycling, walking, and nature, the report argued. Such an approach, “would ensure the benefits of the transport transition are fairly shared”, the IPPR said.
“Decarbonisation of transport shows that for policymakers, it’s all too easy to drift towards the safe space of seeing travel behaviour and the transition as a force outside our control,” said Luke Murphy, head of the IPPR Fair Transition Unit .”We must move beyond just predicting and towards shaping demand. Good policy, shaped by public engagement, can ensure a fair transition for transport that doesn’t just cut emissions, but also boosts health, wellbeing, and nature.”
The researchers also warned that further guidance is needed to alleviate “the injustices” of the current transport system, which include higher levels of air pollution and traffic accidents for people living in poorer neighbourhoods.
It added that policymakers are often left in a position where they are forced to react to changing demand, technology, and events, rather than working towards a clear long term plan to end emissions from transport.
The Department for Transport has described its approach as “not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently”. However, the IPPR warned this approach would inevitably focus on people swapping fossil fuel vehicles for EVs rather than seeking to establish new approaches to transport that favour public transport, active travel, and walkable communities. The report also argued that simply relying on a switch to EVs would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest in society and fail to access the social, health, and wellbeing benefits offered by alternative approaches, said the Business Green report.