Climate change is part of sustainability – not the other way around

How can we up our game with respect to climate and sustainability? My strong view is that we need to re learn that climate change is fundamentally an issue of sustainability- it’s not the other way around. It is in the adoption of more sustainable behaviours and expectations that success lies, albeit technology can be a massive enabler.

I have posted this blog just before departing my London office to travel to Paris to join in the discussions at COP21 and attend the PPMC’s Clean Mobility function. And just last month I had the pleasure of presenting in Seoul at the World Road Congress. As I think about these gatherings it begs the question of what progress has been made and with COP21 upon us, what in particular can we say about the position of transport in the realm of climate change considerations?

Fossil fuelled transport systems

As I attended many sessions and the exhibition in Seoul, my overwhelming impression was that the words climate and carbon reduction have certainly arrived as a constituent part of every technology brand and theme. Climate and carbon are almost an obligatory part of every technical conversation from solar panelled surface roads to lorries drawing energy through pantographs reminiscent of the trolley bus era. But, the discussion of sustainable behaviours and mobility expectations is much more muted and  sustainability itself – well it has become a word that many hesitate to use, many feel it devalued by inappropriate use.

So, for our climate are we nearer to the scale of emission reduction we need? Well not really, or at least, not universally. The strong reliance and growth in fossil fuelled transport systems, coupled with exaggerated expectations of rights to mobility remain key barriers to the reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Is there hope?

As I led my technical committees reporting session in Seoul, strong papers sharing experience from across the world were presented, from Germany to Nepal, and the diversity of circumstance was impressive. It showed how with imagination and courage the twin challenges of climate adaptation and mitigation can be met through a reconnection with well implemented sustainable approaches, supported by society.

But not enough scale and pace

But for all the great experience and solutions, there is simply not enough scale and not enough pace in the implementation. The urgency of resolving the climate change question brings a positive energy, we must use this to reset our efforts to resolve the wider sustainability questions.

Can we do this and through sustainability learn to manage and live with climate change in a way which is equitable for all the world’s citizens?

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