Report calls for place-based approach to taking on transport emissions

A place-based approach is key to addressing transport emissions and meeting net zero targets, according to a report.

In late January, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) published Net Zero Transport: the role of spatial planning and place-based solutions, making the case for a place-based approach prioritising actions to reduce the need to travel while encouraging a shift to more active, public, shared modes of transport.

It did this by exploring how different places could achieve an 80% reduction in surface transport emissions by 2030 on a pathway to net zero by 2050, assessing the impact of 40 carbon reduction interventions in four “place typologies” typical of real places in England: a unicentric city; a polycentric conurbation; a regeneration town; and a growing county.

From this, it found the need to plan for a “do everything” carbon scenario with no single intervention, nor combination of interventions, able to achieve the required 80% reduction in any of the four typologies. It stressed the “urgent need” to move from the traditional predict and prove approach driving much of the UK’s transport planning to a vision and validate mindset, setting clear targets for trip reduction, mode share and carbon emissions. It further called for a more integrated approach to transport and land use planning, explaining that many of the interventions needed to achieve targets fall outside the scope of what is traditionally considered as transport planning.

It mapped out a four step approach to achieving the necessary emissions reductions, stressing that they must all be taken at the same time considering there is only a decade in which to meet the 80% target.

It involves ensuring all new development is located and designed to generate no new transport emissions and, ideally, to be carbon negative, as well as reducing travel demand through home-working, digital services and local living, which could cut emissions by 14%. It also calls for shifting modes from private vehicles to walking, cycling and public transport at a level exceeding current UK best practice, which could reduce emissions by 13%, before switching remaining trips by private vehicles, public transport and freight to run on alternative fuels, such as electricity and hydrogen, achieving a 53% cut.

Further illustrating what a place-based approach could look like, it suggest carbon negative growth zones and networks of 15-minute neighbourhoods where most people are able to meet their daily needs by walking and cycling. Street should be repurposed as places for play and social interaction, with access and parking for most private vehicles restricted and sustainable transport becoming the most convenient, affordable option.