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What Wider Benefits will Decarbonised Transport Bring to the North?

4 min

c. Adrian Malec, Pixabay.
 Ahead of Peloton’s Rail North: Leeds event, Quadrant Transport sits down with Peter Cole, Principle Environmental and Sustainability Officer at Transport for the North to discuss the draft Decarbonisation Strategy and what it means for development and investment in the North. 

 The draft Decarbonisation strategy, which was released in June 2021, highlights the way that Transport for the North (TfN) can respond to the need to decarbonise transport in the North. 

 Since TfN was formed as England’s first Sub-national Transport Body in 2018, they have developed their understanding of what the North needs to deliver a brighter future.

Peter Cole, Principle Environmental and Sustainability officer at TfN.

 Advancing from this point, they’ve been collating and analysing the evidence on the North’s surface transport emissions and engaging with various stakeholders to understand the full scale of the transport decarbonisation challenge the North faces. 

Within this research, they found that 22 per cent of total UK emissions in 2019, came from surface Transport. Of this, an astonishing 95 per cent came from road transport. 

 This research has allowed TfN to make a series of recommendations for both national and local policymakers, and to propose several priority activities that could and should be undertaken by TfN over the next few years. 

Environmental impacts becoming the new driver for growth 

 The Decarbonisation Strategy brings together these findings and is the culmination of a lot of work to systematically create the tools, capability, and evidence for use, and to allow them to forge ahead with our proposed decarbonisation activities at pace.

 Speaking to Quadrant Transport Peter said: “The report mentioned financial profit is not the only driver of growth as we realise environmental impacts are now just as important. Transport is a key identifier of the triple bottom line.” 

 The triple bottom line focuses on how the North can stimulate clean growth. They theorise that balancing people, the planet and profit equally will result in sustainable long-term growth. They suggest that this is the key to decarbonised transport.   

Peter continued: “In the report, we acknowledge the role decarbonised transport can play in that overall equation. We know we need to reduce our transport emissions but through the same measure, we need to capture the wider environmental co-benefits.” 

 When discussing the environment and decarbonisation it can be difficult to pinpoint who is responsible for the implementation of policy. 

 Quadrant Transport heard how all three levels of government are equally responsible. “National policies are a high level; we have seen that with the transport decarbonisation plan.”

The high-level policy announcements have a level of interpretation of how to implement at a regional and local level.

 “It is important to highlight the importance of regional level bodies in joining up plans and seeing coherence. So, I think the actions that TFN can take to try and do that, particularly around collecting evidence and data and bringing together partnerships is a key part of the equilibrium.” 

Balancing the triple bottom line is extremely difficult

 Finding this equilibrium early on allows for economies of scale, to be found much more effectively. “It is setting up a two-way dialogue. Once central sets high-level policy commitment they need to know from us what is needed and where to deliver the commitment” added, Peter.  

The comprehensive collection of data that TfN completed for the draft Decarbonisation Strategy places them in a good place to disseminate the policy from the central Government. This helps when they are applying national policy at a disaggregated local level. 

 It is important to remember that travel and transport by their nature are cross-boundary so the coherence between the implementation of decarb measures and the actual effects they have on reducing carbon in a lot of cases will increase at different data set areas. 

 This means that there should be a key focus on combined authorities coming together with wide authorities to truly measure the success of decarbonisation and highlight what needs improvement. 

 If you’re interested in hearing more about the Decarbonisation Strategy and want to become a sponsor for the Rail North: Leeds event on the 19th October 2021, then click here for more information.