Posts in Policy

On track for sustainable transport? 2050 responds to the National Transport Strategy

October 23rd, 2019 Posted by Blogs, Policy No Comment yet

In this blog, Jamie Wylie, Policy subgroup member, explains the 2050 Climate Group’s response to the National Transport Strategy and discusses why climate change and young people must be at the forefront of the Scottish Government’s approach to transport.

Transport. It may not sound very sexy, but it’s a key part of our everyday lives. It’s how we get to work, to school, college and university, to the shops, to see friends and everything in between. How and where we choose to travel doesn’t just have a big impact on our lives though; it also has a huge impact on the world around us.

Transport now accounts for 37% of carbon emissions in Scotland, making it our nation’s largest contributor to climate change. There’s been some worrying trends in recent years, too: Car use increasing, bus use falling rapidly, cycling rates stagnating — there’s a lot of cause for concern. On top of this, our transport system plays a key role in many other problems we’re facing in Scotland: Physical inactivity and obesity, polluted air and time-wasting congestion, to name but three.

In response to these issues, the Scottish Government has started stepping up action to shift towards a sustainable transport system. There’s been some promising signs of late, including recent funding to prioritise buses in towns and cities, new powers for councils to cut car use and boost public transport in the Transport Bill, 2017’s doubling of funding for walking and cycling, and the reversal of plans to scrap an aviation tax. All of these measures will go some way to creating a more sustainable and fair transport system in Scotland. 

But there’s no denying that there’s still a long way to go to create a transport system that works for everyone. To shape the future of transport and get things heading in the right direction, the Scottish Government recently revealed a new National Transport Strategy (NTS). The NTS is essentially a set of guiding principles which the Scottish Government has had since 2006. It is supposed to act as a basis for decision-making on transport in Scotland, such as which new infrastructure projects should be pursued. The new NTS (revealed in July) will be in effect for the next 20 years. It’s a comprehensive piece of work, setting out key priorities for achieving a shift to a “sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system, helping deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland for communities, businesses and visitors”. 

To gauge the nation’s views on the NTS, the Government launched a 12-week consultation, which closed this week. Here at the 2050 Climate Group, we wanted to make sure that young people had the opportunity to shape the NTS. That’s why we launched our own survey to gather the views of young people along with a dedicated information page and a short explainer video.

We received over 40 responses from young people across the country, and they had a lot to say. In general, people were supportive of the NTS’s vision for the future of transport in Scotland and the priorities that are set out to reach the vision. From taking action on climate change to creating a fairer transport system, there was recognition that the NTS would help to create positive change for Scotland, if put into practice. 

But there was also strong recognition that more needs to be done to create the transport system that we need. Among the most commonly made points was the need to do more to make public transport, walking and cycling the most convenient option for everyone, particularly in towns and cities. To do this, more safe cycle routes and more space for public transport was considered key. Another key issue raised facing young people was the cost of travel. Many people considered public transport to simply be too expensive, and that car use is therefore often the only feasible option that people have. For rural areas, creating more frequent and faster connections was considered key to getting more people using public transport.

Climate change also took centre stage in our survey report. Many respondents felt that the NTS isn’t ambitious enough  on the changes we need to reduce our transport system’s contribution to the climate crisis. Many felt that more emphasis was needed on actively incentivising people to use sustainable modes of transport, rather than merely promoting these options. Additionally, there was some concern that there needs to be a better alignment of transport investment decisions with the Government’s climate goals. You can read our full response here.

So what happens next? Well, the Scottish Government will consider all the responses to the NTS consultation and, hopefully, make changes to the NTS with these responses in mind. After that, the NTS will – hypothetically – be used to guide decision-making in transport for the next two decades, helping to make a more sustainable and fairer transport system for everyone.

If you want to learn more about how we can create a sustainable transport system which works better for young people, keep your eyes peeled for a 2050 event coming up in the near future…

National Transport Strategy: Help us shape Scotland’s transport future

September 16th, 2019 Posted by News, Policy No Comment yet

Transport is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland with 37% according to the latest statistics. This includes international flights and shipping, as well as, domestic transport (e.g. road transport). However, international aviation and shipping emissions are small in comparison. The largest source of carbon emissions in transport comes from our roads with 65% coming from cars, vans and lorries.

In 2018, in their Reducing emissions in Scotland – 2018 Progress Report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change said that Scotland’s climate change targets can only be achieved through a truly joined-up approach to tackling emissions across all sectors. The key to this is comprehensive policy packages accompanied by clear implementation measures and action plans. In the same report, transport was highlighted as one of the sectors in which this is urgently needed. In 2018, the Scottish Government introduced the Transport (Scotland) Bill in Parliament, which set a framework for the establishment of low emission zones and also puts forward proposals for bus services, smart ticketing, Scotland’s canals and many more. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Transport (Scotland) Bill, you can watch our video here and read our response here.

The National Transport Strategy is another opportunity to positively influence transport policy in Scotland to ensure that we can effectively tackle greenhouse gas emissions from transport and make low carbon and active transport options the easiest choice for everyone.

The National Transport Strategy (NTS) is essentially a set of guiding principles which the Scottish Government has had since 2006. The NTS is supposed to act as a basis for decision-making on transport in Scotland, for example what new infrastructure projects should be pursued and what other actions should be taken by the Scottish Government. In 2016, a ‘refresh’ of the NTS was launched, with a full ‘review’ launched in 2017. The Scottish Government has now published the new proposed NTS, which they are currently seeking views on. This will guide the decisions made about transport in Scotland for the next 20 years.

The new draft National Transport Strategy sets a vision for a:

“sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system helping to deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland for communities, businesses and visitors”

The Strategy contains four outcomes and says that it wants to put an emphasis on climate action and improving lives. You can see the outcomes below.

The four outcomes are underpinned by 14 policies (see below). These are inter-connected and the Strategy says that none of them exists in a vacuum and/or is related to a specific outcome. Two of the policies reference specific actions on climate change (in green below). Although other policies might not necessarily refer to climate action, implementing them could help improve the reliability, accessibility, and convenience of public transport, walking and cycling, in doing so reducing people’s dependence on private car use. This is particularly important in areas where public transport is either unavailable or unreliable, such as outside of Scotland’s major urban centres.

It’s an exciting time to shape the future of transport in Scotland. This is a great opportunity for you, and for us, to call on the Scottish Government for ambitious action in reducing emissions from transport. It’s also an opportunity to improve the way we get to work, school and anywhere else we need to get to and do it in a reliable, low carbon fashion.

You can make your voice heard in several ways. Firstly, you can join our webinar(s) (dates to be confirmed!) to learn more about the NTS and share your views in detail. Secondly, you can respond to 2050 Climate Group’s survey here. Based on your contributions, we will submit an official response to the National Transport Strategy consultation. Before responding, you can also watch our overview video and quick guide on the Strategy and share this within your network. Finally, you can also directly respond to the consultation on the Government’s consultation hub.

If you want to read more on other transport-related plans we have responded to in the past, you can do so here (Transport (Scotland) Bill) and here (Air Passenger Duty).

Let’s talk about targets: giving parliamentary evidence on Scotland’s draft Climate Change Bill

June 6th, 2019 Posted by Blogs, Policy No Comment yet

In this blog, our Policy volunteer Siri reflects on her experience of giving evidence in Scottish Parliament on the topic of climate change emissions targets – what it was like, how she felt, and the importance of having young people’s voices represented in decision making.

This week, the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee published their report of recommendations for the Climate Change Bill for Scotland. This Bill will update Scotland’s legally binding emissions targets, previously set out in the 2009 Climate Change Act.  It’s been a busy year – since the ECCLR Committee started processing the Bill a year ago in May 2018, the Scottish Government announced they would set a new target of net-zero emissions by 2045 , following the UK Climate Change Committee’s report in May (more on that in a previous blog post here. We are now presented with the results of ECCLR’s scrutiny, which, together with amendments to the draft bill, will be debated in the Scottish Parliament. Votes on amendments are scheduled for 18th and 25th June – keep an eye on those as this is how the new net-zero target will become a part of the Bill.

Before we go any further, I figure it’s probably good to check in about acronyms. The Climate Change Committee, or CCC, is an independent adviser to the UK and Scottish Parliaments and their advice can (and, in some cases, must) be sought when setting targets. ECCLR is the Scottish Parliament’s (cross-party) Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, which is the key team of MSPs who will scrutinise the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, prior to it being brought in front of the entire Scottish Parliament.

The parliamentary scrutiny process takes place in three stages; the first stage which has just been finished involves consultations with stakeholders through written and verbal evidence, and the analysis of these discussions written up into a report. This is a fascinating process and allows for direct, recorded conversations between experts and representatives and the politicians making decisions on items which are often not their area of expertise. You can watch videos of the Committee’s meetings here.

As a part of this process, 2050 Climate Group sent the ECCLR Committee written evidence and we were then invited to discuss this in person with MSPs, alongside organisations such as WWF, Friends of the Earth, Young Friends of the Earth, and Centre for Climate Justice.

I was honoured to get to represent 2050 Climate Group in front of the committee in November 2018. I was also terrified. Having a conversation and answering on-the-spot questions from MSPs, alongside highly esteemed policy experts, is quite different from giving presentations or speeches. There is only so much preparation you can do.

Luckily, it turns out, the Parliament has recently started a service where you can go visit the building and the parliamentary clerks responsible for the consultations, and discuss how the hearing will go in practice. I was told I was the first person to choose to do this, which is a shame – I’d recommend it to anyone who ends up being invited – because it was very useful to understand the day. We walked through where things would happen; whether there would be space for notes; how to get a turn to speak. What kind of questions would come our way; who the other organisations might be; who would sit where.

I understood that, while we were present to provide a young people’s voice, there would not be specific questions on the impact on young people; instead, we’d need to make sure our voice is heard across a variety of questions on the entire Bill. We had decided that while we wanted our voice heard, we wouldn’t want to speak for the sake of hearing our own voice; only when we had something to contribute. There were many organisations present with specific expertise on targets and policies; we were there both to remind everyone that if we don’t set ambitious targets now, our generation will be sitting on those seats 10 or 20 years from now with much less choice, and to provide creative and positive ideas from young people.

Representing an organisation with a wide-ranging membership and no single policy position was not straightforward. We’d set out a few things we agreed on, based on our consultation with the Young Leaders. We wanted a net-zero target set in the Bill, so companies, organisations, people planning their house renovations and young people planning their careers had a clearer idea of what future would look like. We wanted pragmatic policies across all sectors. We wanted young people at all the tables. And we wanted climate change to be seen as an opportunity to create a better society, not just as a crisis. There were questions about specific percentages and targets that we didn’t have answers to; but we were heard, and it genuinely felt like we were listened to. I had a sense that the politicians really wanted to understand what we thought the Bill should say, and why.

There were a few moments I was especially proud of. In particular, after a comment from an MSP stating “The Scotch Whisky Association said that, if the 2020 target were revised, meeting the new target would not be easily achievable—“not realistic” are the words that it used.”, I felt I needed to clarify what all of us at the table were saying, as this comment was making it sound like we all expect this to be easy and comfortable. But we’re at a point now where no option is easy; some are just more difficult than others, and some provide better outcomes in the future. So I reminded the panel of this: “There will be difficult choices to be made, but they will be easier to make now than at later stages. None of us thinks that the changes will be easy, but they are necessary.”

Since our evidence session in November, the Committee has continued to take evidence from more experts during May. This week, they published their final report on the Bill. It backs the net-zero by 2045 target for Scotland and urges a higher interim target to be set for 2030 to encourage early action over the next decade. It touches on the evidence the MSPs have heard about forestry, agriculture, industry and homes and recommends areas where the Scottish Government could be bolder.

The Bill has now entered Stage 2 of the scrutiny process. This will be a busy few weeks where MSPs bring forward their amendments to the draft Bill. The Government is also expected to make a few tweaks to reflect some of the Committee’s recommendations. What follows will be a series of Committee meetings in June where the ECCLR Committee will vote on the amendments – and this is where party politics comes into play. Parliament wraps up for the summer at the end of June, but the Bill will be back in the spotlight in early Autumn for its third and final stage. Here the Bill will be debated and voted upon by all MSPs (not just ECCLR members) and there will be a chance for last-minute amendments.

The Climate Change Bill has the opportunity to provide a clear and predictable legal framework for urgent and inspired action against the climate crisis. If MSPs take heed of the calls for urgency – which is more likely the more we keep reminding them of this – then a legally binding net-zero target can create space for a managed, just transition to a sustainable society, whilst we still have time (albeit, not much time!). It can also give the people of Scotland opportunities to make long-term choices that support a rapid transition, whether these are in the personal, professional or political spheres – providing space for creativity and use of individual strengths. The 2050 Climate Group will continue to push for opportunities to show today’s politicians young people’s enthusiasm and commitment to action on climate change. Watch this space as we update you on how it all plays out.