Rachel Skinner, Executive Director at WSP, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Government’s truly ambitious plan for transport decarbonisation will be published today. It is welcome, urgently needed and one of the first of its kind in the world.
“There is no argument that we need high quality connectivity, delivered by both transport and digital systems, if we are to craft a green, fair recovery from COVID and maximise long-run opportunities for future generations. Very simply, people and goods will continue to rely on transport networks to be able to move, meet and connect at every scale, from the very local upwards.
“But there is a problem, recognised at the heart of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan. It is not acceptable that the transport sector generates around a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, as these emissions contribute to the onward march of climate change that is already affecting communities both here in the UK and across the wider world.
“As the Plan will lay out clearly, it is time for serious transformation. We must both understand then address the carbon emissions already associated with our transport systems, by minimising and fully mitigating them for the decades ahead. We take this as a signal to redouble our efforts around healthy and more sustainable travel; more intelligent and creative planning, design and construction that delivers on environmental, social and economic outcomes, and innovation, new technologies and adaptability. Leadership in this space offers opportunity; we are far from alone in needing to make these changes.
“At the same time, we need to buy ourselves time by defending our increasingly decarbonised transport systems from the onward effects of climate change and extreme weather. We must seek to create a network with far greater resilience that is future-ready and able to deliver for the communities who will rely on it in 2050 and long afterwards.
“Coming to the here and now, we understand what needs to be done to get transport much more right, and it feels that with this new Plan we now have the necessary political appetite, commitment and motivation to match. The funding must follow so that confidence can build, although we should challenge ourselves to find lower carbon solutions that are not more costly.
“As always, the next crucial step is to turn the ambitions of the Plan into real action on the ground. From climate and sustainability-led planning and design to emerging low carbon construction materials, from widespread behaviour change to data-led progress measurement, from nature-based to technology-led solutions there are many, many lines of attack.
“Leading the charge on behalf of the DfT will be local government. They have the power to encourage and influence change, whether that be new patterns of movement or enabling wide-ranging zero emission mobility choices. Communities across the UK will expect leadership from their local authority but they must have the necessary support if they are to meet decarbonisation targets.
“At WSP, we have already made a market-leading commitment to the UK that we will halve the carbon impacts of our designs and advice in the decade to 2030, putting carbon at the forefront of our thinking.
“This will benefit many of our national and local government and private sector clients, and is a direct and intentional match to the recognised need for the engineering and construction sectors to halve their carbon emissions by 2030 in support of the UK’s legally binding 2050 net zero target.
“There is no other option but to decarbonise at speed; if we fail to attack our carbon emissions with sufficient vigour from now then we will find ourselves dealing with far greater risks and cost as we defend against the known and unknown consequences.
“Clearly the COVID pandemic has caused great economic damage to the UK, but this will pale into insignificance if we fail to do enough to tackle the climate crisis. We look forward to working with the DfT to breathe low-carbon life into the fast, steep climb of transport transformation that lies ahead.”