A report has suggested immediate action aimed at achieving net-zero carbon can still offer a significant economic opportunity for Scotland – and the transport sector is “hugely optimistic” about the country’s prospects of decarbonisation.
According to ‘Transport in Scotland: The Road to Net Zero’ – a report published by international law firm Addleshaw Goddard – sector contributors were extremely positive about committing to decarbonising Scotland’s transport sector.
However, they believe that the biggest obstacle to change is the issue of identifying where the necessary levels of investment will be coming from.
The report noted that surface transport emissions rose for the fourth consecutive year to 10.5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (TCOE), representing a 3 per cent rise, and have increased by 9 per cent since 2012.
Transport is the highest emitting sector in Scotland, at 37 per cent of total emissions, when including aviation and shipping.
Contributors to the report – drawn from the rail, road, shipping and aviation sectors – agreed there is “urgent need for a coordinated policy framework” that reviews “how transport provision interacts today and how these interrelationships should be improved to provide a truly interconnected transport system”.
The report said worrying transport and aviation trends – as outlined in the Committee on Climate Change progress report to the Scottish government, published in December – including the total distance travelled by road vehicles in Scotland increasing steadily since 2011 at an average rate of 1.7 per cent per year.
The distance travelled by vans has also increased by over 30 per cent in the past 10 years, and cars, vans and trucks account for 65 per cent of total transport emissions.
Aviation emissions grew 6 per cent in 2017 to 2.1 TCOE and are now 56 per cent higher than 1990 levels largely due to an increase in emissions from international flights.
The report found there was “still some hesitation among private companies to commit sufficient investment into the development of new technologies” but concluded “with concerted, coordinated and well-funded action now, net-zero offers a huge economic development opportunity for Scotland”.
In order to achieve this, the report states that a review of taxation regimes across all modes of transport is required, along with better cross-sector communication, data sharing and more data gathering to support business cases to invest.
“Environmental visas akin to tier-one investor visas could be introduced to encourage international investment into businesses and technology that are working towards net-zero,” it states.
Professor Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, who contributed to the report, said: “With both the UK government and the Scottish government clearly committed to net-zero, decarbonising transport will be at the economic frontline of the transition. Some of the adjustment will concentrate upon changing the nature of transport – and in particular a major shift toward electrification – but it seems highly likely that achieving net-zero will also require a significant reduction in day-to-day journeys for business and leisure.
“Designing a framework that supports growth and this transition will require a careful balance.”
Carrie Armstrong (pictured), a partner at Addleshaw Goddard in Scotland, said: “The report confirms that there is huge optimism amongst Scotland’s transport industry and a will to recognise the enormous economic development opportunity that net-zero offers.
“This includes opportunities to reskill existing workforces, promoting international investment into carbon reduction technology and infrastructure in Scotland, while redeploying the country’s significant experience in renewables, engineering, onshore and offshore energy extraction.
“Nevertheless, the overwhelming message is that billions of pounds of investment is needed to deliver net zero in line with the targets set by both the Scottish and the UK governments. A combination of both private and public money is fundamental to meeting that target but there is genuine concern that there is not enough available to support the scale of investment required.”
Sarah Baillie of Addleshaw Goddard said: “There is also broad agreement amongst the sector that a balance has to be struck between incentives to change social behaviour and penalties for failing to comply, and that dependence on the road network in Scotland must be reduced. This requires a transformation in our land use, decisive action, and a coordinated framework approach amongst policy and decision makers.
“November’s COP26 conference in Glasgow is a major opportunity to showcase what Scottish policy makers are doing to decarbonise the transport sector, and it must be seized.”
Scotland needs to rethink its transport. Picture credit: PXHere