Letter to COP26 Governments

York Cycle Campaign are proud to be signatories of the European Cyclists’ Federation’s (ECF) joint letter to governments at COP26 calling on them to boost cycling levels to tackle climate change.

The letter states ‘The world needs much more cycling if we are to combat climate change. Without quicker and more determined action by governments worldwide to cut transport carbon emissions, we will be dooming present and future generations to a world that is more hostile and much less inhabitable.’

It asks that ‘all governments and leaders attending the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to commit to significantly increasing the number of people who cycle in their countries. Governments can do this by building more high-quality cycling infrastructure, integrating cycling with public transport, improving road safety and implementing policies that encourage people and businesses to replace automobile trips with bicycle trips and other modes like walking and public transport. Promoting and enabling active mobility must be a cornerstone of global, national and local strategies to meet net-zero carbon targets.’

Road transport accounts for 37% of CO₂ emissions within the York LA area, making it the greatest emitting sector in the city. When corrected for population changes, overall CO₂ levels in the city have dropped 39% between 2005 and 2019 whilst emissions from road transport have remained the same.

For comparison, the York’s per-capita road transport emissions of 1.6 tonnes of CO₂ are equal to the entire per-capita CO₂ emissions of Micronesia, Colombia and Samoa.

Cycling has huge potential to reduce emissions from transport, and we don’t have to swap ALL car journeys for cycling. 45% of journeys in Yorkshire & the Humber are 2 miles or less – that’s the equivalent of going from the outer ring road to the city centre, a 10 minute cycle. Source: NTS Table 9901

Cycling saves 150g of CO₂ per km over driving by car (240g per mile) so if those that can swap to cycling for those sub-2 mile journeys they’d be saving up to 480g per trip. If they do that every working day as part of a commute they’d save 230kg a year – roughly a return flight to Amsterdam from Leeds.

It’s not just private journeys where cycles can reduce CO₂ emissions. Cycle logistics as a replacement to traditional vans deliveries can save as much as an 8th the lifetime CO₂ per km. The rise of modern e-cargo bikes have been shown to be able to compete like-for-like with vans for logistical efficiency in cities.

Comparison of CO₂ emissions using London based Pedal Me as an example
Credit: Possible. Report on The Promise of Low Carbon Freight used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK License.

What Needs To Be Done?

The letter calls on all governments attending COP26 to;

  • Promote cycling in all its forms, including cycle tourism, sports cycling, bike sharing, riding to work or school and for exercising
  • Recognise cycling as a climate solution, establishing a clear link between how an increase in bicycle trips and a decrease in private car trips reduce CO₂ emissions
  • Create and finance national cycling strategies, collecting data on cycling to know where improvements in infrastructure and usage can be made
  • Focusing investments on building safe and high-quality cycling infrastructure and in incentives for communities historically marginalised from cycling
  • Provide direct incentives for people and businesses to switch from cars to bicycles for more of their daily trips
  • Build synergies with public transport and foster combined mobility solutions for a multimodal ecosystem capable of covering all user needs without relying on a private car
  • Collectively commit to achieving a global target of higher cycling levels. More cycling in a handful of countries will not be enough to reduce global CO₂ emissions. All countries must contribute, and these efforts must be tracked at the UN level.

ECF’s letter to COP26 governments

There is no conceivable way for governments to reduce CO₂ emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis without significantly more cycling. Cycling is one of the best solutions we already have to ensure our planet is habitable for all generations to come.

Cover image shows Warming Stripes for England, produced by Ed Hawkings at University of Reading.

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