Transport Minister Norman Baker gave a video address to the IMS Consulting Sustainable Business Breakfast held in Bristol on how the government believes a low carbon future is essential to our nation’s future prosperity.
IMS sustainable business
Thank you for inviting me to speak today (4 October 2011) at this IMS Consulting Sustainable Business Breakfast.
I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person but, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can at least attend in spirit. It’s just a pity that we don’t yet have the technology to allow me to share breakfast as well.
Now a few years ago you’d have been hard pressed to find a group of business people talking sustainability. It simply wasn’t on their radar. For that matter you’d have struggled to find a minister with sustainability as part of his or her official brief.
That shows you how far we’ve come. Sustainability has come out of the shadows. It is now part of the mainstream. But the trouble is it sometimes seems to be little more than a tick-box buzzword.
That is to downgrade its vital nature. For me sustainability is about the serious business of preparing for a low carbon future instead of just hoping for the best. And be in no doubt: a low carbon future is essential to our nation’s future prosperity.
So what does that actually mean from a transport perspective?
Well, it may mean not travelling at all.
It is clear that alternatives to travel - such as telepresence, home and flexible working and working hubs - make sound economic and environmental sense. They can boost bottom line profits, and cut carbon. And that is not to mention the health benefits of a working day without the stress of a traffic jam or a crowded train, and the extra flexibility it brings in terms of your workforce.
Yet despite the fact that many businesses - many of you here today (4 October 2011) - are at the forefront of using new technologies in business, the use of such alternatives still tends to be the exception rather than the rule.
This needs to change. It certainly has to next year. With the Olympics just around the corner, and with our transport system preparing for a huge influx of spectators, now is surely the time to emulate the scouts and “be prepared”.
But don’t get me wrong. This isn’t all your responsibility. There’s a role for government too.
We are determined to turn the UK into a dynamic, low carbon economy.
That’s why, in June, we set a more radical interim limit on emissions than ever before. Our aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 1990 levels between 2023 to 2027.
That’s the equivalent of the equivalent of 1950 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The government will be publishing an action plan in the autumn setting out options to meet this ambitious target.
Of course, we’re not starting from scratch.
We’re already putting more that £400 million over the lifetime of this Parliament to support the de-carbonization of road transport.
We’re ssupporting ultra-low emission vehicles with our Plug-In Car Grant for both private and business buyers and we recognize the importance of reducing the climate impact of liquid fuels and are working to ensure that biofuels are genuinely sustainable over their life cycle by tackling their indirect impacts at the European partners on this matter.
We’re also paying around £47 million to bus operators - through the Green Bus Fund - to provide around 540 new, low carbon buses by April next year. Around 185 hybrid and electric buses are already on the road delivering greenhouse gas savings of more than 30% compared to diesel buses.
And the ‘greening’ of the railways is also well underway. We’re electrifying commuter lines, reducing consumption per train and proposing a high speed network that would offer a genuine alternative to domestic air travel.
Local transport also offers real possibilities for progress, where in many cases we may be able to make a simple switch to more sustainable modes of transport.
As two out of every three trips we make are less than five miles. Why not take the bike instead of taking the car?
This is why we have made available an unprecedented £560 million to local authorities through our new Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
The fund enables the delivery of solutions that support economic growth while also reducing carbon.
In July, I announced that 39 projects have won funding of over £150 million through the first allocation from the fund. One of these was the West of England Partnership’s integrated package of measures to promote low carbon alternatives to single-occupancy car use on 6 routes that capture 40% of journeys to work across the West of England.
And I recently opened the pedestrian and cycle Redhayes Bridge over the M5. It’s a unique way of linking economic development in Exeter with East Devon Growth Point, facilitating better access to employment sites including Exeter Science Park.
What matters about these investments is that we’re not trying to force top down, one-size-fits-all solutions on local people. Different areas will inevitably come up with their own solutions.
But we can positively influence the travel choices people make.
And with government and business working together, we can make a real difference.
Some of you might call this sustainable.
But I prefer to call it something much more old fashioned - simply good business.