Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The prospect of limiting carbon emissions

I recently went to a meeting hosted by Carbon Neutral Cambridge on developing a Local Transport Plan that would get us towards being carbon neutral.

Quick summary: the measures proposed by local authorities (specifically Cambridge, but I suspect it's not that different elsewhere) won't get us even close to being carbon neutral by 2050, and likely not ever.

Given that, realistically, any hope we have of preventing the worst consequences of climate change means that we need to be carbon neutral by 2030, this is somewhat disappointing.

There was then an analysis of a fairly radical scenario, and even that struggled to just about reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

And, what's worse, both scenarios were pretty optimistic in terms of timescale and takeup of technology. The likelihood is that there will be dithering and delays, pushing it back even further.

(And there's the incorrect assumption that switching to electric vehicles will reduce carbon emissions. On its own, it won't, it requires the world to move far faster to renewables or nuclear than we are right now.)

The other thing that isn't immediately obvious is that, right now, the carbon footprint of moving people about is the same as that for moving goods about. You have to solve both.

We then broke up into focus groups. I hate this (it's just me) - the chances are that either nobody will have anything to say so you spend the time twiddling your thumbs, or there's so much you don't even scratch the surface. On this occasion, we didn't even really get started. It's a huge topic.

But our group (although we did have Peter Dawe sidetrack us with his CitiPod) thought about a couple of priority areas:
  • For people: reduce the need to travel, and the use of remote working
  • For goods: move long distance traffic to rail, and have local distribution hubs
What is clear, though, is that we need significant modal shift from current transport systems to more energy efficient ones. Yes, this means getting rid of cars in their current form. Difficult, given the rather dire state of public transport and the lack of investment in it (although they can always find a few billion to build roads to induce extra demand and cause more congestion and pollution), but necessary.

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