COVID-19: Friend or foe for decarbonising transport?

25feb12:30 pm2:00 pmCOVID-19: Friend or foe for decarbonising transport?This event is intended to provide a thought-provoking examination of the outlook for decarbonisation, in light of COVID-19, with a range of speakers in the transport sector from all around the UK.12:30 pm - 2:00 pm OrganiserPTRC Education And Research ServicesEvent TypeWebinar & Talks

Event Details

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About this Event
The USA is rejoining the 2016 Paris Agreement, following President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow is less than 10 months away. At the end of last year, the UK Government set out a ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution and confirmed bringing forward a ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2040 to 2030. It’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan is also expected to be published soon. Meanwhile we are still gripped by a pandemic.

Global protests inspired by teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg swelled during 2019 with calls for action in response to the climate emergency. In a period from September 2019, Australia experienced the worst bush fires in history – a stark symptom of a changing climate in many people’s eyes. Then the pandemic took hold. The world’s attention was drawn to a more immediate crisis and one that is yet to pass. COVID-19 has sent shockwaves through societies with loss of life, loss of confidence and loss of the freedoms. It has left us more uncertain than ever about what the future has in store.

Restrictions on travel and social distancing have brought parts of the transport sector to their knees, with demand decimated. Meanwhile, a prolonged behaviour change experiment has been in play as many people turn to digital connectivity and their local neighbourhoods in order to live their lives.

In the face of such circumstances, the UK remains committed to decarbonising transport in less than 30 years. This is a hugely ambitious undertaking that will involve multiple transitions in a sector that has a poor track record for reducing its total CO2 emissions, epitomised by an upwards not downwards emissions pressure created by the popularity of SUVs.

Will the pandemic prove to be the nail in the coffin of hopes to clean up transport at the scale and pace that is needed? Will the economic aftermath of COVID-19 drive a craving for a return to the familiarity of pre-pandemic activity and transport behaviours? Will those who fear what they see as the ‘climate change ideology’ muster an appetite for dampening the sense of urgency and responsibility to decarbonise?

Or could COVID-19 be a catalyst for our salvation? Might humanity’s exposure to its own vulnerability and to its ability to rapidly adapt behaviours during the pandemic have changed its outlook, with a greater willingness to embrace decarbonisation? Could the state of flux be a true opening for bold new steps for a green recovery as governments strive for economic stability and their place in the new world order?

This 90-minute panel debate is the eighth in a series of PTRC Fireside Chats prompted by COVID-19 that consider implications for transport. The event is intended to provide a thought-provoking examination of the outlook for decarbonisation, in light of COVID-19.

The conversation will be framed with the following questions:

Where might we now be in terms of transport decarbonisation prospects had the pandemic not materialised?
What grounds for optimism or pessimism regarding decarbonising transport are there as a result of COVID-19?
Has COVID-19 shifted the relative expectations of technology fix and behaviour change as contributors to decarbonising transport?
What else might the pandemic and its aftermath have in store that could significantly influence decarbonisation?
How much could or should COVID-19 shape COP26 and will it make a difference to the resolve for action?
Our panel will explore such questions and more and we look forward to you joining us with the opportunity for raising your own questions for the panel to respond to.The Fireside Chat will be chaired by Glenn Lyons (Mott MacDonald Professor of Future Mobility at UWE Bristol). During 2020 Glenn was centrally involved in work for the Department for Transport to develop a series of technology roadmaps for the decarbonisation of UK transport and to develop a masterplan for a multi-modal transport hydrogen hub in Tees Valley.

“Speed of change and change in the right direction are of the essence now for decarbonisation, and the dynamics created by the pandemic will prove crucial to the prospects ahead” he says.


Speaker Biographies

Rachel Aldred – Professor of Transport and Director of the Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster

Rachel Aldred is British academic specialising in active mobility. She is a Professor in Transport at the University of Westminster and has published over 25 peer reviewed papers. She was awarded the Economic and Social Research Council’s award for Outstanding Impact in Public Policy (2016) for her work on The Near Miss Project, the first UK study calculating a per-mile collision risk for cycling, and is one of the co-investigators of the Propensity to Cycle Tool, an online system for transport planners using census data to model the potential benefits of cycling infrastructure schemes in England, funded by the Department for Transport. Aldred presented to the Transport Select Committee in 2018 as an expert witness during the enquiry into active travel.


Brendan Rooney – Climate Change Team Leader, Transport Scotland

Brendan’s current role involved looking strategically at transport emission reduction across national government policy in Scotland. He has worked on a range of areas in Transport Scotland, including legislation and policy-making. He has held various roles across the Scottish Government including in Justice, Digital and the Press Office. Before joining the civil service he was a journalist.


Claire Haigh – CEO, Greener Transport Solutions

She is also Chair of the Delivery and Impacts Independent Review Panel for the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (DfT/Defra); is a Director and Vice Chair of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (Low CVP); is Executive Director of the Transport Knowledge Hub and has been a Board Member of Transport for Greater Manchester. She writes a monthly column for Passenger Transport and writes regularly for Transport Times.


Dr Bob Moran – Deputy Director, Department for Transport, UK

Bob was appointed Head of Environment Strategy at the UK’s Department for Transport in April 2018 where he leads on moving mobility onto a more sustainable footing. His team develops and delivers polices across the transport modes to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and enhance the natural environment. He previously worked at the UK’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles, a cross Government policy unit working to position the UK as a global leader in zero emission vehicles and associated technologies. Bob was awarded a Ph.D. in Biomechanical Engineering from Edinburgh University in 2002 having graduated from there with an Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1997.


Andrew Curry – Director, School of International Futures

Andrew Curry has worked as a futurist for twenty years, leading a wide range of projects across the commercial sector, the public sector, and the non-profit sector. He joined SOIF in 2019 from the Futures Practice of Kantar Consulting, where he was until 2018 managing editor of the company’s Future Perspectives thought leadership series, and co-hosted its podcast, The Future of Consumption.

He has a particular interest in futures areas where social, economic and technological issues intersect, such as cities and mobility. Andrew has published widely on futures methods, including – with Anthony Hodgson – the first academic paper on the Three Horizons method. He has a forthcoming chapter in Planetary Cities on the possible impact of COVID-19 on the future of cities and of work. Andrew is a member of the Advisory Board of Lancaster University’s Institute of Social Futures and writes a futures newsletter, Just Two Things, on Substack.


Jillian Anable – Professor of Transport and Energy, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds

Jillian’s research addresses the potential for demand-side solutions to reduce carbon and energy from transport. Broadly, her current research direction investigates ‘the future of the car’ – bringing together socio-technical developments including electrification, new mobility services and the psychology of car owning and driving to explore the concept of ‘car usership’. She currently leads the Transport and Mobility Theme in the UKRI’s Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions as well as the Energy for Mobility Theme of the UK Energy Research Centre. She has sat on a number of advisory boards and strategy panels for UK Government Departments, the Climate Change Committee, US Dept. of Energy, HoL Science and Tech Committee, RCUK and NGOs, most recently acting as Chair to the Research and Evidence Group for the Scottish National Transport Strategy Review and Steering Group member of the UK Government’s Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce.





(Thursday) 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


PTRC Education And Research Services

PTRC Education and Research Services Ltd is part of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in the UK – the leading professional membership organisation for all those working in the passenger, freight transport and supply chair professions. PTRC is an international, multi-disciplinary training and development organisation specialising in training and staging events on all matters relating to transport and travel planning. We lead the profession in providing training courses, study tours, workshops, seminars and conferences. Clients include highways, traffic and transport practitioners in government, local authorities and consultancies as well as practitioners in the charitable sector. Services are delivered both in the UK and internationally.

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