The pandemic has understandably dominated headlines for the last year, but we cannot forget we are still in a climate emergency and that green, efficient transport must be the future.
We are in a climate emergency and green, efficient transport must be the future. I absolutely agree that increased use of public transport is an important part of a wider programme of changes needed to tackle climate change. However we need to see a significant improvement in our public transport network for this to become a reality.
For example a recent report by consumer group Which? found that despite the significantly higher carbon emissions, train fares are almost 50% more expensive on average than the same domestic UK route by plane.
For too long climate change has been viewed as tomorrow’s problem – an issue that will affect future generations. The urgency for change has become strikingly evident, in light of the recent extreme flooding across Europe and the extreme heat that has been experienced in Pakistan and Canada. I fear that without a substantial change to our attitudes towards fossil fuels, these events will become much more regular with increasingly disastrous consequences.
After a period of record low passenger numbers, we need to encourage people back on to trains to help our economy and our environment. Despite this, fares have been increased again this year. The average commuter will pay £3,144 for their season ticket, which equates to a 43% or £950 increase in the last decade. We should be encouraging people to use public transport, not penalising financially those choosing not to travel by car.
Although I welcomed the announcement of flexible rail tickets, I am aware that some now appear to offer little or no savings, with some three-day-a-week ticket options seemingly more expensive than existing full-time season tickets.
Likewise the Committee on Climate Change has warned that aviation is likely to be the largest emitting sector in the UK by 2050, even with strong progress on technology and limiting demand. The Government has said it plans to meet its aviation net zero targets through technology, the development and growth of sustainable aviation fuels, as well as increasing efficiencies and methods to remove greenhouse gases.
Although technological solutions have potential, many such developments are in the future. Action needs to be taken now on emission reductions, and difficult decisions have to be made on capacity and demand management. Within this, I believe any consideration of airport expansion must meet strict tests on air quality, noise pollution, national economic benefit and our climate change obligations.
At the Budget and Spending Review in October, the Chancellor cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights just days before our country hosted a critical international climate summit. This move on APD is expected to result in a 3.5% increase in passenger journeys.
I disagree with the decision to cut APD for domestic flights. The Government needs to explain how its decision matches with its aim for net zero of domestic aviation by 2040.
Decarbonising our transport sector is one of the most pressing challenges we face, and we need more ambition and action from the Government if we are to meet net zero.