Imperial College London: Imperial researchers discuss reaching net-zero in transport with policymakers

The report, released by the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment and the Energy Futures Lab earlier this month, explores what reaching net-zero emissions in the transport sector might look like, drawing out the key changes that will need to take place and where more research is required to decarbonise our modes of travel. Workshop participants discussed the complexities around decarbonising travel, proving timely discussion in the aftermath of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) summit in Glasgow.

If we are to reach net-zero, decarbonising transport is essential – we need to see this shift sooner rather than later.
Kerry McCarthy MP
Shadow Minister for Green Transport
The event was chaired by Dr Drew Pearce, Research Associate in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London and lead author of the report, who emphasised the essential role of decarbonising transport in reaching net-zero targets. He noted the persistent nature of this issue, and the Grantham Institute has planned further engagement around it in the coming months.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East and Shadow Minister for Green Transport, echoed this message, welcoming the panel and offering some reflections from both the COP26 summit and recent parliamentary announcements. These included the importance of active travel, the need to create UK manufacturing jobs in the sector, and the impact of the government’s scrapped eastern leg of High Speed 2 (HS2).

Participants of the workshop in discussion (clockwise: Kerry McCarthy, Dr Drew Pearce, Professor Jenny Nelson, Leo Murray, Dr Ajay Gambhir and Dr Koen H. van Dam)
Participants of the workshop in discussion (clockwise: Kerry McCarthy, Dr Drew Pearce, Professor Jenny Nelson, Leo Murray, Dr Ajay Gambhir, and Dr Koen H. van Dam)
Imperial speakers were Dr Ajay Gambhir, who gave an overview of the contents of the report, Dr Koen H. van Dam, who discussed simulation models for transport planning and operation, and Professor Jenny Nelson, who emphasised the need for interdisciplinary thinking in finding solutions to the problems faced.

Communicating the impact [of green transport initiatives] is extremely key – so people can join in on the journey and see the new opportunities these measures would bring.
Dr Koen Van Dam
Research Fellow in the Urban Energy Systems group.
Additionally, the workshop heard perspectives from Hinesh Mehta, the Strategic Lead on Climate Emergency for London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and Liani Baglietto Castellares, Transport Planner at Arup, on the immediate and long-term delivery challenges for industry and local government, and the need to be creative in assessing transport data from during the pandemic.

Participants also discussed regional disparities in access to green transport, such as the availability of electric car charging points. An overarching theme of the discussion was the imperative of not only introducing green technological developments and decarbonise fuels, but reducing overall demand for travel.

A successful transition to a zero carbon, resilient transport sector will require collaboration between all actors. The Forum and the Grantham Institute will continue to convene local and national governments along with private sector players and researchers to chart the next necessary steps, both in terms of implementation of existing solutions, and essential research and innovation. Please get in touch if you want to join us on this journey.