It looked like holidays might have been off the agenda this year, with all the restrictions and difficulties linked to coronavirus, but it seems not even a global pandemic can stop us trying to get away for a few days, whether to a beach in Spain, an hotel in Cornwall or just down the road to Malham Cove.
Travel seems to be in our blood and not just for holidays. The average daily commute to work across the UK now takes almost an hour and our ever-increasing desire to live a country life means the school run and trips to the shops have become longer and longer. Perhaps it’s in our genes handed down from Viking ancestors or a natural hunter-gatherer instinct that leads us subconsciously in search of the next meal. Whatever it is, our itchy feet are the cause of one of the biggest problems to crack, when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions
Transport remains the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, accounting for 37% in 2018. In the Harrogate District it is was nearer to 50% due to the proportionally greater contribution from roads like the A1M. But more importantly, these emissions have only dropped by a meagre 0.6% in our district over the last 10 years! This compares with a drop of nearly 57% in emissions from the generation of domestic electricity over the same period.
This leaves us with a serious challenge if we are to achieve the net zero-carbon society needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
We have made good progress eliminating emissions from the energy we consume at home and in industry, with little impact on our way of life, thanks to the availability of renewable electricity supplies, but to achieve similar reductions in transport emissions might appear to require more disruptive lifestyle interventions, with active travel (walking and cycling) and public transport being promoted as the solution.
However, whilst these activities are to be encouraged, because of the health, wellbeing and reduced traffic congestion they bring, they are not the answer for many and we must therefore accept that motor vehicles will remain an essential part of the transport mix and find ways to accommodate them in a zero-carbon environment.
Options like the Co-wheels Car Club, for example, whose cars you may have seen on Montpellier Hill, Valley Mount and seven other locations in central Harrogate, offer ways to limit the number of vehicles on the road, by giving access to a car when required, without the need to own one.
Simply cutting back on travel however won’t solve the problem. We need to effectively eliminate all transport emissions, and if we are to achieve that whilst accepting that travel is an essential part of the human existence, we need to think differently about the way we travel and adopt, appropriate, sustainable modes of transport for the journeys we do undertake.