COVID-19 has caused a significant shift in the way people live and travel. People are moving out of cities to seek more access to the countryside, less people, and/or to rent or purchase a home with more space to reside in. Rail, bus, and air transport networks have lost enormous amounts of revenue due to a huge drop in passenger traffic caused by successive lockdowns and fear of catching COVID-19. Unexpectedly, more and more people have taken up zero emission transport solutions such as walking, cycling, and/or driving electric cars.
This has created a once in a lifetime chance to transform the physical design of localities throughout the UK to focus more on sustainability and reductions of emissions to align with the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Since the end of WW2, urban design has been driven in large part by an emphasis on motorists and cars as a focal mode of transport, which has influenced the layout of towns and cities, the development of infrastructure such as motorways, and economic planning by government and business. Consequently, because of the large amount of road traffic nationwide, the transport sector is the largest source of emissions in the UK with 28% of all GHG emitted. For the UK to meet its climate obligations, this needs to change.
The fact that the UK is chairing COP26 this year means that the world is looking to us to show leadership on the Paris Agreement. This is a fantastic opportunity for Britain to showcase our world leading efforts to combat the climate crisis alongside our existing pledges to become net zero by 2050 and halt the sale of petrol/diesel vehicles by leading the world on transforming our cities and towns with a vision of an innovative, healthier, more sustainable, and economically vibrant Britain.