Car clubs, lift sharing and on-demand bus services can play a key role in tackling climate change – Richard Dilks

The Scottish Government needs a plan to reduce how far we travel by car. Here’s how to do it

As the dust settles on a tumultuous week in Scottish politics, it is worth bearing in mind what started the whole thing. It already seems like a long time ago, but the end of the Bute House Agreement – and ultimately the resignation of Humza Yousaf – was at least in part sparked by a row over the scrapping of climate change targets.

The decision by the Scottish Government to ditch its key goal on reducing emissions was described variously as humiliating, deeply disappointing and one of the worst environmental decisions ever made at Holyrood. If John Swinney does become the next First Minister of Scotland, the science tells us that he must turn around Scotland’s record of underachievement and overpromising on climate change action.

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The writing has been on the wall since before Chris Stark, outgoing chief executive of the UK’s statutory Climate Change Committee (CCC), warned in March that Scotland’s goal of cutting 75 per cent of emissions by 2030 was no longer credibly achievable due to the lack of progress in recent years. Accompanying the decision to scrap the target was a package of policies set out by Net Zero Secretary Màiri McAllan, the foremost of which was a ‘route map’ to cutting the number of car kilometres driven by 20 per cent by 2030.

Car clubs mean people tend to drive less but have access to a vehicle when they need one (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)Car clubs mean people tend to drive less but have access to a vehicle when they need one (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Car clubs mean people tend to drive less but have access to a vehicle when they need one (Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

We have been waiting for this route map for a long time. The car kilometres driven target – one of a handful in the world – is both ambitious and logical. Yet it also needs real commitment, real policy change, to deliver on. If you want to actually hit a target, you must have a committed plan of credible action to achieve it.

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Yet nowhere in the latest document is there a mention of the potential of shared transport, which covers things like bike-sharing schemes, car clubs, lift sharing, on-demand bus services and e-scooters. This is worrying and a huge missed opportunity. I say that based on our years of Scottish evidence – much of it funded by the Scottish Government – on shared transport’s ability to deliver a host of benefits including a reduction in driven kilometres, a boost to people’s activity levels and more public transport use.

Our latest research on bike-sharing schemes in Scotland estimates that they collectively contribute to a reduction of approximately 1,408 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by providing an alternative to car travel. Our most recent study on Scottish car clubs, meanwhile, finds that members drive around 180 miles a year less than they did before joining.

It’s not difficult to join the dots: expand such schemes, and the total car kilometres driven nationally will fall. We have the data and the human stories to show why this is a missing piece of the jigsaw in the race against the climate, environmental, cost-of-living and health crises that Scotland is facing. Yet the Scottish Government lacks a plan on shared transport.

Should Swinney succeed Yousaf, the crisis facing Scotland’s emissions and environment will loom large in his in-tray. By turning towards sustainable options such as shared transport, Scotland can progress on multiple fronts at the same time – which is just what it needs.

Richard Dilks is chief executive of CoMoUK, the UK’s national charity for shared transport



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