Quicker action needed on Edinburgh's City Mobility Plan to meet climate targets

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 10:24

Transport is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Edinburgh – making up just under a third of the city’s emissions.

It is also the sector where, since 2000, the smallest emission reductions have been achieved.

We know that addressing the sector’s emissions needs bold action. It needs to deliver safe, accessible and well-connected walking and cycle routes to make trips by foot and bike the default choice for citizens.

It needs electrified public transport system which supports onward trips by foot, bike, train or tram as well as a clear plan for the roll out of EV cars in the city.

And, most importantly, considering the role that climate and transport can play in promoting equality, we need a fair, just and equitable approach to change the way people and goods move around our capital.

Encouraging cleaner, greener transport choices

The City of Edinburgh Council’s City Mobility Plan  sets out Edinburgh’s route to achieving sustainable and effective mobility across Scotland’s capital by 2030.

It recognises that if Edinburgh is going to be a true leader on climate action in Scotland, then the city needs to provide mobility which meets the needs of its citizens as well as and the environment.

We’re pleased the Mobility Plan places such a great emphasis on encouraging behaviour change and creating an environment which makes it safer and easier for people to choose to walk or cycle for shorter journeys they would have previously made by car.

Encouraging social and climate benefits

It’s also welcome to see the City Mobility Plan listen to our call to apply the 20-minute walking principle for placemaking in both travel and neighbourhood design, outlined in our 2020 Forward Faster Further report.

This will deliver significant social and climate benefits, in particular by reducing the need for in-city travel.

There are other welcome measures in the Plan which will help protect vulnerable road users.

With road space re-allocation explicitly identified as a demand management tool, a clear focus on the maintenance of our streets and a commitment to review the Transport Asset Management Plan, the City Mobility Plan feels more aligned to the agreed sustainable transport hierarchy.

However it is important that investment designs in an intentional job creation and skills development programme. This will make sure the communities affected by change are those who benefit most.

Speeding up behaviour change

Whilst it is hard to fault the level of ambition outlined within the plan, the pace by which actions are set to be delivered needs to be far quicker, for Edinburgh to meet its climate targets.

PCAN’s report on action which needs to happen in the city, to meet the 2030 net zero goal is clear. The pace of change needs to multiply by at least two each year if the city’s emissions targets are to be met.

For transport, this means building at least 5km of high-quality protected cycling routes each year. Or, introducing an extra 103 electric buses in service each year.

What is clear is that cutting Edinburgh’s emissions shouldn’t  happen with the default congestion, pollution and ill health that comes with an increase in traffic volumes. Simply replacing private cars with electric alternatives will not be good enough.

As well as setting out the scale of ambition for change in the city, The City Mobility Plan needs to be underpinned by clear, measurable targets.

Alignment it with our Net-Zero Roadmap would help to assess progress towards success.

Redesign and invest

Covid-19 and its accompanying lockdowns have had a huge impact on the way we travel around Edinburgh and the way we view transport in the city.

The pandemic has provided Edinburgh with an opportunity to begin to reshape travel patterns and reset ingrained habits through programmes such as Spaces for People. These steps forward need to be built upon to bring about rapid and long-lasting change in the way we live, work, travel and enjoy our public spaces.

Over the past few years, we have acknowledged as a city, that status quo is no longer an option. However, to enable any change in status quo, this decade will have to be one of urgent action.

Edinburgh’s City Mobility Plan is a strong, positive step in the right direction. But the proof of the plan’s effectiveness and ambition will come in the city’s actions over the coming months and years.

The choices and actions made by the people of Edinburgh now, will decide our collective future as a city and our collective success.

This will mean making our streets attractive and safe places for people, instilling confidence in our public transport, and making walking, cycling or wheeling the most desirable way to meet everyday needs.


By Daisy Narayanan, Commissioner, Edinburgh Climate Commission