Readers' Blog: Potential for cycling to cut carbon emissions

The Government’s recently published Annual Transition Statement 2018 has ignored the potential for cycling to reduce transport emissions (1). The legislation is designed to enable Ireland’s transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.

However, the section of the Statement dealing with the decarbonising of the transport sector demonstrates a complete failure by Minister Ross and his Department of Transport (DTTAS) to grasp the potential contribution that cycling can make to a reduction in carbon emissions.

Transport accounts for over 52% of energy used in Ireland and is increasing. It is one of the four key areas where a reduction in carbon emissions is required to meet our international obligations. Section 4.4 of the Annual Sectoral Mitigation Statement deals with decarbonising transport and states that this involves providing meaningful alternatives to the private car, continuing investment in sustainable transport and promotion of modal shift.

However, in the accompanying National Mitigation Plan Actions, a different narrative unfolds - one where rhetoric is divorced from anything remotely approaching meaningful action.

The Update Report on Actions contains a section entitled “Actions not delivered as planned”. It includes words like “publish”, “review”, and “strategy” rather than “fund” and “enable”.

Six of the actions were due to be completed by the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport in 2017. These include “Publish a review of the National Cycle Policy Framework” which originally commenced in 2013 and which 5 years on has still not been completed.

Under Actions Complete, the Decarbonising Transport section lists five items. The DTTAS was responsible for two — setting up a behavioural change working group and publication of a Greenway Strategy. Greenway funding is welcome but it is disingenuous to claim that publication of a strategy or the setting up of a working group will reduce emissions and it is noted that no estimate of emission reduction is included.

The recent IPCC report clearly spells out the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. To minimise environmental damage and fines arising from the failure to meet Ireland’s climate change targets, Minister Ross must adopt much more ambitious actions than currently outlined.

Cycling is the mode of transport for more than 40% of people in many progressive European cities. Cycling will not solve the problem of climate change on its own, but as 57% of Irish journeys are less than 8 km, it can make a significant contribution as well as alleviating congestion, contributing to cleaner air, improving health outcomes and creating attractive neighbourhoods.

For cycling to play its part however, Minister Ross must begin to properly fund high quality cycling infrastructure which will enable cycling for all.

“Cycling offers the best and quickest return on investment of all transport expenditure. We urgently need to invest a minimum of 10% of transport funding in cycling infrastructure, to give people a safe, attractive alternative to the car.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the Emperor Nero is reputed to have fiddled while Rome burnt. In the next few years we shall see if our current leaders will emulate him or take decisive action to stop climate change.

- Gerry Gornan,

Vice-Chair of Cyclist.ie

the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network


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