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From Paris To Home

Eiffel Tower Paris

What road are we on and how should we travel to get to our destination? The ambition of the Paris Agreement is for humanity to emit no more greenhouse gases than the planet can absorb, by 2050. To achieve this state of “climate neutrality” by the second half of this century, global emissions must peak as soon as possible before rapidly descending along each country’s nationally determined trajectory. In seeking to strengthen our collective response to climate change in Paris, the goal is to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius – seen by many as a dangerous tipping point.

To reach this destination, some of the big milestones along the way include renewables overtaking fossil fuels as new electricity sources; cities implementing policies and regulations to fully decarbonise buildings and infrastructure; zero emissions transport becoming the preferred form for all new mobility; and agriculture shifting to earth-friendly practices.

Progress towards these milestones in the UK is mixed and our overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has come almost exclusively from the electricity generation sector. The need for substantial carbon reductions is especially acute in sectors such as transport, buildings and agriculture where emissions have not fallen significantly.

The transport sector is now the biggest emitter in the UK, responsible for around 28% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, and the main source of these emissions is the use of petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads. It’s not hard to see why carbon emissions from road transport have continued to grow: traffic volume has been increasing faster than fuel efficiency gains can keep up. Unfortunately, the focus on private vehicles and talk of the “biggest road building programme since the Romans” serve only to lock us in to a high-carbon future and lead us further away from the relative safety of our intended destination.

The only way to stop transport from contributing towards climate change is to drastically cut the miles travelled by car. Cleaner options such as bicycles, buses and trains need to be made more accessible and more affordable. Taking one step back, we must reassess the need for mobility in the first place. Transport in all its various forms is literally a means to an end. What we are really striving for by living in a city or town centre is accessibility. According to Harvard professor of economics Edward Glaeser, cities exist to eliminate transport costs for people, goods and ideas. In other words, we need to find new ways of travelling less and become more centred on the places where we live.

Photo by Corey Buckley on Unsplash

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