How an alternative vision for transport can help tackle the climate emergency

07 Feb 2020

A new PCS report sets out the changes needed in the Department for Transport to make it ready to meet the challenges of climate change.

A climate emergency was declared by our national executive and every group and national branch was asked to approach their civil service department, public body or privatised employer to declare a climate emergency. While all departments will have a significant role to play, it is clear that an efficient DfT is essential to developing environmental sustainability.

As it stands, a DfT which the report concludes is not currently fit-for-purpose is hardly likely to meet the current modest climate reduction targets, let alone reaching the net zero decarbonisation 2030 target which science dictates that we need to meet.

The Alternative Vision for Transport: Integrated, planned, and green, to be launched in March, sets out recommendations that would put our nation in a better position to overcome the existential threat posed by climate change.

It will warn that this will not be reached if the department continues its ideological fixation with outsourcing, which threatens its impartiality and independence.

Renationalisation

The last report by the committee on climate change progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, noted that transport is the highest-emitting sector, and a key element in meeting carbon reduction targets. Therefore the way in which the transport sector is governed is not merely an academic one, but one that is essential to the progress we can make towards our action on climate change. The case for an affordable and collectively based public transport system is one of the report’s key recommendations. It calls for renationalisation of bus and rail services to ensure their use for public good.

A move towards a more integrated transport system, the report warns, is being hindered by a lack of political will and a myriad of ownership forms.

As the report states: “The whole approach by the government is designed to grow private sector involvement and increasingly ignore any climate goals and environmental improvements.”

Recommendations

The report will recommend that DfT has to make climate change and pollution a major priority in all decisions that it makes. With its increasingly fragmented and outsourced system, it is far from likely to able to meet this challenge at the present time. An example used is the Highways England, which moved away from a government agency to a wholly owned government company which risks now include more scope for policy to be subverted.

With changes in ownership status as with Highways England and NATS and the suspicion that more privatisation is to come, the competitive goals take over from traditional public service values, and the report will warn that this usually means that we see a cut in standards of service delivery and lack of regulation.

Integrated system

We urgently need to move towards an integrated green transport system that does not pollute air and water, and does not damage the physical environment, but that does promote sustainable alternatives as well as protect us all from adverse climate change.

Research by the report’s authors professor Roger Seifert and Dr Steve French, included interviews with PCS activists representing members across the transport sector. It will also cover the need for a well-trained, well-staffed, and properly-paid workforce in the DfT.

PCS is launching the report in parliament with a briefing session for MPs on 3 March. You can support its launch by inviting your MP to attend.

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