Transport North East take on Net Zero Week 2023
Just in case you’ve missed it on our social media channels this week, we’re very proud to be taking part in Net Zero Week 2023. Net Zero Week is an annual week of awareness dedicated to drawing attention to and focusing on solutions for climate challenges which we face in the UK. It’s super important to us here at Transport North East to support our region to be the greenest and healthiest it can be, and net zero is a HUGE part of that. Keep reading to learn a little bit more about what net zero actually is, what on earth it has to do with transport, how we’re doing our bit, and how you can do yours!
Net zero demystified
Over recent years, it’s been pretty impossible to miss media coverage highlighting the climate crisis which we are facing; we’re sure some of you will have seen and heard the words ‘net zero’ more regularly over the past few years and you might know that the UK government have made a pledge to get to ‘net zero’ by 2050 – but what does this all actually mean?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the official definition of net zero is “(of a country, city, etc.) removing as many emissions (= gases that cause the earth to warm up) as it produces”. In other words, we would no longer be adding to any carbon emissions in the atmosphere, and we would be removing emissions whilst doing so, in order to help to prevent rising global temperatures. This is what the UK government pledged to do in 2019 when they committed the UK to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. It’s really positive that so much attention is being drawn towards net zero, because it has a big impact our health and the health of our planet.
Carbon insetting and carbon offsetting are two ways to reduce carbon emissions and help the UK reach net zero. It can get a bit tricky with so many new terms so simply put…
Focuses more on a change of behaviour rather than doing something new. This includes the implementation of nature-based solutions such as reforestation, agroforestry, renewable energy, and regenerative agriculture.
Doing something good for the environment which is an extra e.g., planting trees. Lots of companies have become involved in projects to build new forests, you might have seen advertisements stating, ‘for every purchase we’ll plant a tree’, this is offsetting! 😊
Businesses across the UK have stepped up to the plate and many have made their own pledges to reduce carbon emissions. Our seven local authorities in the North East including Durham, Newcastle, Northumberland, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside have all committed to achieving net zero by 2030. This means that the councils will work towards reducing emissions to their lowest amount through energy efficiency measures and will then use offsetting as a last resort to balance remaining hard to remove emissions. Other businesses across the region share the same goals; Sage have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, and to halve their carbon emissions by 2030, and Greggs have also committed to a net zero 2040 and have also committed to feature elements of their eco-shop ‘store of the future’ in 25% of shops by 2025.
But what does net zero have to do with transport?
Absolutely everything! Did you know that…
- Road transport contributes 37% to the North East’s carbon emissions – the most out of any sector.
- Currently many journeys in our region are made by road and 60% of commuter trips are by car.
- While 28% of households in the North East do not own a car – the highest proportion outside of London – this has shrunk from 37% in 2002/3. The proportion of households owning two or more cars has increased from 20% to 32% over the same period.
- Poor air quality is responsible for around 360 deaths each year in Central Tyneside alone.
*Statistics gathered from the North East Transport Plan.
What we are doing
Transport North East act on behalf of the North East Joint Transport committee and are working with local transport operators, central government, Active Travel England, and several other stakeholders who are committed to supporting the region on their net zero journey. We have implemented a number of policies and strategies to shape the future of North East travel including:
Aims to greatly reduce carbon emissions – saving around 80,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year
This will be done through:
- Encouraging people to make the right travel choice. We want walking, wheeling and cycling to become the natural choice for shorter everyday journeys and to combine with public transport for longer travel. Our target is for 50% of all short journeys to be made by active travel by 2035, a large step up from 38% in 2018/2019.
- Assisting the region and its partners in meeting (where physically and financially possible) expected standards set out in national design guidance for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and help with scheme design engagement with Active Travel England (ATE).
Since the publication of the BSIP, substantial progress has been made to decarbonise the North East bus fleet. Nine new high specification electric ‘Voltra’ buses have been added to Go North East’s fully electric bus feet which operate in Newcastle and Gateshead. The buses are the result of a £2 million investment with top-up funding from the Government’s Ultra-Low Emission Bus Fund.
With the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to be banned from 2030, and hybrid vehicles to follow in 2035, it’s vital for our region to be at the forefront of the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) agenda . Zero emission vehicles are vehicles which don’t emit exhaust fumes such as gas and other pollutants – ZEVs include battery electric vehicles, plug in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles.
In March 2022, the North East Joint Transport Committee approved the North East’s first region wide Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) policy, and it sets out our aim to further develop and expand the North East’s ZEV charging network, and to increase the uptake of ZEVs across the region.
Other transport businesses in the region and across the UK share our goals: Newcastle Airport have set a target to become a net zero airport by 2035, whilst Nissan have set a carbon neutral goal for 2050 and have committed to 100％ of all-new vehicle offerings in key markets to be electrified by the early 2030s, and ScotRail are on track to be a net zero rail operator by 2035 too!
All of our strategies and policies and rooted by our vision of ‘moving to a green, healthy, dynamic and thriving North East.’ Read more about what we do here.
What can you do?
First off, if you’re a business owner, why not try SME Climate Hub’s net zero calculator for businesses? You can get a handy estimate of your carbon emissions and know where you’re at.
Now, there are tons of little changes which you can make to your day-to-day life in order to reduce your carbon footprint. As we mention above, transport contributes to 37% of carbon emissions in the North East – so when you can, why not try walking, wheeling, cycling or public transport instead of hopping in the car?
If you’re a business owner, it’s important for you to futureproof your business and ensure your environmental strategies are up to date. Consider checking out free resources from Net Zero Week including on demand webinars.