The year 2020 was understandably overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As our lives turned upside down and we had to adapt and learn to navigate in a world that had now changed forever; other events unfolded behind the scenes, which will undoubtedly impact many.
Ella was just nine years old when she died of acute respiratory failure, severe asthma and air pollution exposure In 2013. The coroner found that the pollution levels exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines. The principal source of which were traffic emissions.
The first of its kind ruling in the UK has highlighted the devastating reality of our everyday actions. The impact of climate change cannot be denied and it is evidently affecting our lives and health in a number of ways.
It is harming everything humans need to survive, including the air we breathe, our drinking water and even our food. However, we aren’t the only ones suffering as a consequence of our lifestyles.
According to scientists “climate chaos” is to blame for the widespread loss of bumblebees across the globe. A report also found that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970.
Further proof that David Attenborough documentaries and docu-films like Seaspiracy are just the tip of the iceberg.
Burning fossil fuels to make electricity is the biggest source of CO2 emissions in the UK, followed by our dependency on transport. Whether it’s business or pleasure, the cars we drive and the flights we take are severely damaging our environment.
Another major contributor is the energy we use in our homes. That’s why it’s vital that we phase out fossil fuels to welcome a 100% renewable future.
Green Industrial Revolution
Given the facts and following pressure from the public, in the form of protests and public outcries plastered over social media; the government has announced plans for a “green industrial revolution”.
As part of his plan, Boris Johnson pledged to ban new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030. Additionally, the PM declared that almost half of all cars on UK roads must be electric within a decade.
Furthermore, the PM intends to invest £12bn in green technology and initiatives and create 250,000 jobs. The prime minister also stated that he plans to make London “the global centre of green finance”.
In addition to planting 30,000 hectares (nearly 75,000 acres) of trees annually, as part of nature conservation efforts (catch up, Boris!) the PM also plans to promote public transport, cycling and walking schemes.
Given the evidence, like the sad story of Ella, it’s long overdue for us all to take action. In order to make a difference, individuals and businesses alike must break old habits and change behaviours, to protect ourselves and our planet.
With huge changes ahead if we are ever to achieve these ambitious climate change targets, many are wondering what this will mean for the future of Britain’s roads & driving in the UK?
Over the next six years, smart motorways are set to double in number and they will be renamed “digital roads”.
Chief executive of Highways England, Jim O’Sullivan, recently told The Times that by 2025 it is expected there will be a total of 788 miles of smart motorway in operation.
But is this a good thing? Apparently not. According to experts, more than 15,000 tonnes of extra carbon emissions were recorded. That was just one year after a stretch of smart motorway opened on the M3 in Surrey.
That’s two thirds higher than the initial forecast. Highways England said the sudden rise was linked to an increase in Heavy Goods Vehicles using the road under its new guise.
However, experts have warned emissions are increasing at a time when the focus should be on “dramatically reducing them”.
Chris Todd, director of Transport Action Network, warned smart motorways would “create new traffic”, leading to increases in pollution.
A study revealed that Air pollution was the UK’s largest environmental risk to public health. Producing the equivalent of 40,000 deaths a year nationally.
The same study urged the government to introduce stricter legal guidelines on particulate matter emissions to help tackle the problem. However, the rise in smart motorways seems to be doing just the opposite!
The most cost-effective impact on reducing inner-city pollution is for local authorities to restrict parking availability. At least thats’s what The European Public Health Alliance believes.
The installation of wider pavements and cycle lanes – like those introduced across London during the Covid-19 pandemic might seem effective. However, they have proven to be expensive and have little impact on curbing emissions.
Outside of London, Bath has become the first English city to launch a Clean Air Zone. The campaign will specifically target high polluting vehicles who will now be charged for driving into the city centre.
Private cars and motorbikes are exempt. But commercial vehicles, such as buses and lorries (that do not meet the required emissions standards) will have to pay a daily charge.
Bath and North East Somerset Council introduced the £23 million scheme. They believe they can bring nitrogen dioxide levels within the legal limit by the end of 2021, without charging private cars.
If this was implemented across the UK, less availability for parking would see the demand for public transport rise. That’s why there’s never been a better time to look into alternative travel options that are more accessible and eco-friendly.
Liverpool has already made some advancements, similar to London, with their electric Voi scooters. You can find them all over the city and they provide quick and easy transportation, without producing any pollution!
These savvy little scooters are dotted all around making it easy for members of the public to take short journeys, reducing the need for public transport and its inevitable emissions.
The city of Manchester have recently introduced a trial scheme to ease road traffic traffic and improve air quality.
At the start of 2020, Manchester Council installed new ‘modal filters’ in the form of planters, in the streets of Levenshulme. The project has been in development since 2018 to improve the area’s traffic woes.
The trial has since caused quite a stir with local residents. So much so that the confusing and controversial method has made headlines.
The council has already received criticism due to its alleged poor planning of the scheme. There’s no road signage, no pavement bollards and not even any reflectivity.
What’s worse is the emergency services have found themselves stuck on the side streets due to the planters.
However, residents have had a mixed response. “It’s a well-intended scheme,” one resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Manchester Evening News.
“I appreciate there’s a few bits that need to be ironed out but in order to prove that it will have a positive effect, it needs to be well executed – this feels like half a job.”
Watch here to find out more about the planters!
Depending on how successful the trial is, we could see more planters installed in city streets across the UK, in the very near future.
So what’s next?
Although some may not agree with these measures to curb climate change, they’re happening.
The roads will soon be a very different place for England’s drivers. Many may have to accept the idea of ditching their cars, choosing public transport and planning their journeys to avoid planters!
But it’s important to remember that this is all for the greater good! Our planet cannot survive if we continue to rinse through our limited resources the way we have been. The sooner we begin to make more selfless choices and opt for more sustainable options, the better it will be for all of us.
These changes may seem challenging at first, but they aren’t necessarily a negative thing! Electric and shared autonomous vehicles (aka robo-taxis/shuttles) will arrive in the UK by late 2021, according to experts.
Once self-driving vehicles are accessible to the public, they might solve congestion, crowded parking spaces, and pollution problems. Along with many more common mobility issues in cities. You can read more about driverless cars here!
Recent reports have confirmed that flying cars could be a reality by the end of this decade! According to Hyundai’s European chief executive, the leading car manufacturer believes “urban air mobility will offer a great opportunity to free up congestion in cities [and] to help with emissions”.
Hyundai is involved in plans for the first electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) airport in the UK. His comments came days after urban mobility firm Vertical Aerospace announced plans to sell eVOTL vehicles to Virgin Atlantic and partner on a UK-based short-haul air travel network.
Exciting times are ahead and with electrification extending beyond cars, we will also see an increase in the development of electric planes in the very near future!
According to‘ The Future Of Mobility’ report by the Government Office For Science, Airbus and Rolls-Royce, and the Siemens E-Fan X hybrid concept are currently developing electric and hybrid aircrafts.
These technologies could help to reduce the environmental impact of aviation by reducing emissions (Airbus, 2017). This would contribute to the environmental goals of the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation.
Including reducing CO2 emissions from aviation by 75%, reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 90%, and reducing noise by 65% (European Commission, 2011; Rutherford, 2011).
You can also expect e-bikes to flood the streets, as the UK takes inspiration from the Netherlands where 40% of riders use them instead of cars.
If we can incorporate these changes into our current public transportation system, this will reduce traffic and pollution caused by private cars substantially.
This will also make way for more affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly travel options for everyone.
We even had to look at ourselves as a business and reflect on the way we operate. As a company that helps put many cars on the roads, we have a responsibility to consider how this contributes to the problem.
That’s why over half of our fleet at DSG is electric and we plan on adding even more! We believe making electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure accessible to all drivers is crucial for achieving climate targets.
In addition, we have in-office rules on non-reusable plastic water bottles. Instead, we encourage our team to adopt a reuse and refill mindset, using sustainable water bottles and travel mugs that we have equipped them with!
And we’re not alone when it comes to putting sustainability at the forefront of our agenda. Nordgreen are not only makers of incredible watches. Their partner One Tree Planted also donate FIVE trees to be planted for every watch purchased!
They have also partnered with Water for Good, Pratham UK, and Cool Earth. If you buy a watch, you can enter the serial number and choose which charity to donate to!
And theyre not the only company using their influence and power to create change and give back. Pavegen is a UK startup, whose entire aim is to aid climate change.
Considering that the majority of energy is created using fossil fuels, Pavegen have designed a simple, yet ingenious solution – Walking!
They install specially designed paving slabs in heavily congested streets around the world that convert your footsteps into kinetic energy!
You read right, they’re using technology to transform footsteps into clean electricity! Although it may not create massive amounts of energy, it has managed to power a floodlight football pitch without the unnecessary pollution.
It is innovative ideas and admirable actions like this that are going to make a huge difference. In order to tackle the climate crisis we need more businesses and individuals to join us by changing their behaviours.
Will planters, parking restrictions and smart motorways help or hinder the process? Only time will tell! What we do know for sure is that the roads will be different and soon, it may be easier to leave the car at home.