Tackling climate change by championing the additional benefits that flow from decarbonisation is a sound messaging strategy, winning support from progressives.
It’s also the approach taken in a report published on Tuesday by a coalition of UK transport campaigning groups.
The coalition – which includes the Campaign for Better Transport, Friends of the Earth, and the national cyclists’ organisation, CTC – has issued a wish list of policy asks they want to see parties sign up to before the General Election.
Their report, “Improving Everyday Transport”, makes the case that introducing a raft of targeted changes to local transport systems can improve people’s quality of life in multiple ways.
These benefits include providing sustainable jobs (such as in constructing a greener bus fleet); tackling social exclusion and connecting communities (by ensuring low-cost public transport is available); improving health (through encouraging walking and cycling); and ensuring road safety (such as by dropping the speed limit to 20mph in residential areas).
At the same time, all these proposals also help cut carbon emissions. As the report points out, the Government’s “current carbon reduction strategy lets transport off the hook when it comes to reducing emissions”, but ensuring the sector takes on its share of the burden can also involve some win-win solutions.
This is explained by Roger Geffen of CTC, who says:
“When it comes to transport, the Government has in recent years tended to address all these areas – health, environment, safety – in isolation.
“Our intention is to highlight how a more joined-up approach would work better.”
Significantly, the group’s proposals also show how promoting behavioural change in transport choices can lead to savings in public expenditure. The report argues that there are clear opportunities for making budget savings by ditching expensive road building schemes and taxing aviation fuel, but also through adoption of the Smarter Choices measures, an agenda that’s been gaining traction amongst policymakers and local authorities over the last five years or so.
This would see less money being spent on concrete, and more on personalised travel plans:
“Crucially … there also needs to be a shift in the balance between capital and revenue funding, to support an expanded programme of ‘smarter choices’ measures … which give people opportunities to try out new ways of getting around in a sustainable and healthy way.
“Initiatives such as school and workplace travel plans, individualised travel marketing and cycle training are among the most cost-effective measures in transport, yet have historically been neglected due to the lack of revenue funding for transport.”
The proposal may face resistance at the Treasury, traditionally hesistant about switching from capital to revenue funding. But their analysis is spot-on, and shows that targeted investment, careful cuts and subtle behaviour-change policies can deliver a whole host of rewards – and, by the way, help stop climate change.
Our guest writer is Guy Shrubsole of the Public Interest Research CentreLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.