You may have been away on holiday, with all your devices switched off, enjoying a well-earned break. Or you may have had your head in the sand. These, it seems to me, are the only two conditions under which you can have missed the fact that, on 14th July, the government finally published its Transport Decarbonisation plan and that, on 9th August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Sixth Assessment Report, which addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change.
Both documents are vital to understanding how transport policy, practice and related investment in the UK must change – urgently. However, as with all such things, there’s little likelihood that anyone will read them cover-to-cover. (The full IPCC report is almost 4,000 pages long! though the Summary for Policy Makers I’ve linked to above runs to just 42; while Decarbonising Transport has 220 pages.) But there’s also little need for most of us to do so. In terms of what they mean for what we ourselves now do, perhaps what’s most important is the greater sense of urgency they impart to whatever we do and how they prompt us to modify what whatever we do in some way – both personally and professionally. In respect of the latter, I think there’s a particularly pressing need for people working in transport to change how we communicate and collaborate with fellow-practitioners, decision-makers, campaigners and the public.
To help you work out what all this might mean for you, I think I can do little better than link to a couple of highly readable articles written by wise people I trust. The first is a piece by Phil Goodwin and Jillian Anable that was published in the latest edition of Local Transport Today. Although its title is far from snappy – ‘We are now facing two alternative futures (plus an untenable one)’ – the article itself is extremely cogent.
The second set of thoughts I’ll point you two are those of Glenn Lyons, which you can find here. You can ignore, if you must, the link that Glenn provides to a video of the Ultravox track which he uses as his title – Dancing with Tears in My Eyes – but don’t gloss over what he says.
In closing, I’ll take the liberty of also giving you the option of clicking through to some reflections of my own on Decarbonising Transport, published in the previous issue of Local Transport Today to Phil and Jillian’s piece. Under the title ‘The drive to decarbonise’ I explore what I think is the critical issue of public-facing messaging when it comes to changing how we travel. The piece is also available as a pdf below.
We all have choices to make concerning what we do – personally and professionally – in response to the facts of climate change. Some may be difficult in one way or another. So, let’s choose first to be influenced by the evidence and inspired by wise counsel.
John Dales, Director