The Science – Doing What Works

The processes to research, test, experiment and apply new methods are sometimes referred to generically as ‘science and engineering’ but in practice it means ‘doing what works’, drawing from the best available evidence about successful approaches, and ensuring that potential ways forward are fully developed and optimised to local needs.

Over the last 30 years there has been a strong and growing evidence base about successful approaches to decarbonise transport. Applying these methods locally involves action by all groups within West Dunbartonshire so that everyone can get behind the global mission to shape a more sustainable future. Key programmes being developed through this plan are:

  • Travelling more locally in sustainable places – Transport emissions are reduced as people are able to live healthier better lives with more productive local living, making better use of existing transport assets. The new national draft National Planning Framework gives stronger statutory backing to these changes.
  • Travelling using zero emission vehicles – Using vehicles that have no emissions at the point of use such as in electric cars, vans, buses and trains.
  • Expanding active travel – For short trips of five miles or less, and particularly the shortest trips of up to a mile,.zero emission travel is often better by walking, cycling and using scooters, wheelchairs and other forms of active travel.  

Further details about estimated emission savings from reducing travel distances in West Dunbartonshire are shown here.

12 New Programmes to Decarbonise Transport

For most transport emissions, net-zero can be achieved by ensuring zero emissions at the point of use. For some transport emissions such as aviation and some vehicle manufacture/repair/maintenance zero-emissions will not be possible, so net zero allows for a small amount of residual emissions to be produced, but also requires ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NET) to be developed to take carbon out of the atmosphere to compensate. These measures can include planting trees, peatland restoration, rewilding, bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Already many of the best selling electric vehicles are sold net-zero with all emissions from the manufacturing process being accounted for with NET. The Council can achieve net-zero across its areas of responsibility, by purchasing exclusively from net-zero suppliers, and ensuring zero emissions at the point of use for all surface transport within West Dunbartonshire.

The figure below shows an achievable rate of progress towards net-zero with the total of 147,000 Tonnes of CO2 emitted each year in West Dunbartonshire being reduced to zero. It is unclear as yet whether zero emissions will be achievable for heavy goods vehicles by 2045, so achieving net-zero may require some offsetting of residual emissions using NET. It is also not yet clear whether all rail services will have been electrified by 2045. For other transport the technologies are already available and affordable to enable the transition to zero emissions to be achieved in the timescale shown.

Projections for 2025, 2030, and 2045 of transport emissions by mode of transport
The Changes Needed to Reach Net-Zero

Within 23 years annual emissions need to fall by 147 kT. Many of the hardest reductions to achieve will not be achieved until the later years, so in the first decade to 2032 reductions averaging well over 6kT per year will be needed on the programmes where policy, technology, economics, and capability are already in place to deliver rapid early action including:

  • Electrification of the bus fleet.
  • Widespread adoption of battery electric cars and vans, including on Council service provision.
  • More local trips by active travel to shops and local services
  • New local delivery services to enable the ‘last mile’ to people homes to be made by active travel.

Approximately two thirds of all the required emissions reductions could be achieved through widespread implementation of these these four proven approaches.

The graph below shows how progress towards the planned reductions in West Dunbartonshire could be achieved towards 2045. This local approach is consistent with the national transport emissions reduction pathway in the National Climate Change Action Plan to reduce emissions by about 40% from 2020 before 2032, with the remainder between 2032 and 2045.

kT CO2 Emissions in West Dunbartonshire Council Area by Year