Covid-19 has undoubtedly caused massive disruptions to everyday life and countless industries. From construction and education to finance and transportation, all sectors have had to rethink how business gets done.
The public sector is no different. Local and national governments around the world are working hard to keep vital services running while schools largely remain closed and staff continue to work remotely. Life, however stalled, must continue during a pandemic.
The Covid-19 crisis means that a number of government announcements or plans have been delayed or pushed back. For example, the Department for Transport recently announced that the deadline for government funding schemes, including applying for the all-electric bus town or city funding of £50m, has been extended from April to June due to the current situation.
While this is a great opportunity for local councils which may not have had the time to apply, the downside is that the chosen town or city must wait longer for cleaner communities. In addition, the National Bus Strategy is also likely to be pushed back as many government officials are understandably being pulled into focusing on the current pandemic.
On the bright side, lockdown measures have revealed how resilient our environment can be with drastically reduced emissions and levels of pollution. As people begin returning to their pre-Covid-19 lives, cleaner transportation should be prioritised to prevent the sector returning to being one of the biggest contributors of emissions in the UK, and indeed across Europe.
Many of our cities experience criminally high levels of pollution – indeed, some recent research suggests that high levels of air pollution may even raise the risk of dying from Covid-19. It’s therefore absolutely vital that local councils in the UK continue working towards net-zero and make implementing greener public transportation systems a priority.
A greener future?
It was recently announced that UK emissions have fallen for the seventh year in a row, with more than a third of our energy being produced through renewable sources. This highlights the brilliant steps taken by many, including Zenobe towards reaching net-zero emissions. But more must be done – fast – if we are to reach our target of net-zero by 2050. With road transportation being a key contributor of emissions, every mode of transportation, including buses, must be prioritised to make a greener future for our communities.
Despite current lockdowns, there are plenty of ways that local councils can put the wheels in motion for the electrification of their bus fleets now, with or without government funding. Councils and bus operators in areas like Guildford, Newport, Leeds, London and elsewhere have already taken the first step in shifting to cleaner transportation, which is a key connector of our towns and cities as well as a lifeline to so many.
Newport Transport were able to electrify a fleet of buses to improve air quality for their local community. Using Zenobe’s solution, Newport was able to go from having one electric bus, to 15 for the area. Action to build cleaner transportation systems is absolutely essential to reduce air pollution linked deaths.
Although Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on people across the world, it has clearly shown that communities are capable of adapting quickly to imminent dangers. Why can’t our response to the climate crisis be any different? It’s vital that both national and local government continue their hard work towards achieving net-zero with sustainability at the heart of all they do for our future.
Steven Meersman is director at Zenobe Energy