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Transporting you to a low-carbon future. Katie Chesworth

The transport sector’s carbon challenge

We are all facing a climate emergency. We are all asking ourselves: what can I, my company, my community and country do to tackle this existential threat?

Transport1 is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, accounting for 34% in 20192, the majority of which were from road transport. The sector needs to lead the way in moving the UK and the rest of the world, to a greener future.

The UK is facing up to the challenge. Earlier this year, the government published ‘Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge’, recognising the leadership and huge radical change needed from our industry, the public’s travel habits and transport infrastructure. It calls for technological innovation, a behavioural revolution, and localised solutions. It asks for new ideas on how to address the challenge.

This is where Mott MacDonald’s understanding of how to address the challenge and put this into practice is essential.

How can the transport sector meet the challenge?

To meet transport’s decarbonisation challenge, the sector needs to consider the following:

Seeking the right solution – Not just in terms of where infrastructure is built, and assessing and testing options, but also in questioning whether a lower-carbon alternative is possible. Moata Carbon Portal has been developed in response to this challenge and measures the carbon emissions of BIM designed assets, highlighting carbon hotspots during the optioneering phase when decision making is more flexible. Considering how behaviour and land-use changes can help reduce the need for carbon inputs, and targeting solutions to the people who need them is critical, and we are currently developing Net Zero strategies for Highways England, the Environment Agency and UK Water.

Making the case for decarbonisation – Through local and regional authorities crafting and prioritising the best schemes for the future, we ‘make the case’ through our market-leading business case, wider economics and transport appraisal expertise, and by developing scheme appraisals that focus on decarbonisation.

Changing how people travel – A major shift in travel habits is required to meet the decarbonisation challenge. Behaviour change and travel demand management will help reduce car use and spread the peak. An example of our expertise in action is our Vancouver team using Moata Safe Stroll to apply a route-finding algorithm to help children identify safe walking routes to school which encourages modal shift.

Changing where people travel – Accentuating Covid-19’s work-from-home trends, we have an opportunity to revitalise local centres, plan transit-based development, and deliver place-making schemes that reduce the distance, need and type of travel while engendering local economic recovery. There are many exciting schemes happening across the country we’re involved in. Towns, cities and neighbourhoods are benefitting through our support to clients utilising the Towns Fund, Future High Street Fund and Emergency Active Travel Fund.

The network as a system – Using system-based thinking to create holistic solutions that work, and delivering them on the ground. Moata, our digital solutions platform helps us balance transport interventions with interdependent land-use, energy, carbon, and social and economic needs.

Powering our transport network – Changing how our transport works also means decarbonising how it moves. Our energy and transport teams are co-developing solutions including electric vehicle strategies, hydrogen power and developing the UK’s first hydrogen hub.

The Transport sector has a key role to play in us reaching our low carbon future. We believe in partnership working and bespoke solutions. By asking the right questions, considering the whole picture and leveraging systems of systems thinking, we deliver solutions that fit the unique needs of the transport sector’s carbon challenge.

Our Moata Carbon Portal rapidly models the capital and operational carbon of new assets, highlighting carbon hotspots during the optioneering project phase. Learn more.

Katie Chesworth, Principal Transport Planner & Transportation Unit Sustainability Lead

1 - Excluding international aviation and shipping, but including domestic aviation.
2 - 2019 UK greenhouse gas emissions, provisional figures, National Statistics & BEIS, March 2020.

Mott MacDonald

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