Time for Scotland to get on board with EV Future

Fleets of battery-powered ‘green’ buses will help the country move into the fast land in the race to meet emission targets, writes Steven Stewart, Director of Communications, Stagecoach Group

“When it comes to delivering on Scotland’s net zero pledges, there’s no more challenging a sector than transport. It’s the country’s highest single emitter of carbon and has been one of the few areas of daily life where the problem has been growing.

This is mainly due to an unsustainable reliance on private car trips, which is fuelling climate change, and killing 2,500 Scots a year due to poor air quality. Road congestion is a drag on our economy and there is also the significant carbon footprint from mushrooming home deliveries. Collectively, it is a key reason why the Scottish Government is targeting a 20% reduction in car use by 2030.

At first sight, the scale and speed of the transformation required can look daunting – and make no mistake, it is going to require fundamental changes. For all of the lauding of the benefits of switching to electric vehicles, the Committee on Climate Change has made clear that changing technology will deliver only 38% of the required reductions in emissions if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

That means 62% of emissions reductions will have to come from changes in how we live, particularly how often we travel. In short, walking more, cycling, and wheeling, and using more sustainable public transport, particularly buses, for all essential journeys. But while the challenge is significant and time is short in tackling transport’s contribution to the climate emergency, it absolutely can be done.

In 2021, as part of my involvement in the ambition of my home city of Perth to become the most sustainable small city in Europe, I had the opportunity to take the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s (RSGS) Climate Solutions Professional course. Being aware of the climate change impact of transport is fundamental to my communications role with Stagecoach, Britain’s biggest bus and coach operator.

Climate Solutions has a very clear link between understanding the science and linking that to practical changes that can be made in your own organisation. Knowledge and understanding gives you the power to make those changes. It is a springboard to motivating not just yourself, but inspiring your colleagues and working in partnership with your suppliers and others in your value chain to make positive changes that make a big difference.

The course came at a key time as it helped inform Stagecoach’s new sustainability strategy, which was published in August 2021. Our plan includes setting science-based targets that are consistent with the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.

Our strategy – Driving Net Zero: Better Places to Live and Work – aims to help create a greener, smarter, safer, healthier and fairer country. We want to leverage the power of public transport to address climate change, support post-Covid economic recovery and boost prosperity for our employees and communities.

Our roadmap to becoming a carbon neutral business will see investment in new zero-emissions fleets and other green technologies over the next 15 years to reduce the impact of the company’s operations on the planet, as well as initiatives to cut waste, boost recycling and conserve water.

Stagecoach is aiming to decarbonise its business by around 70% by 2035 as well as targeting a zero emissions UK bus fleet by that date. The first new fleets of clean electric buses will be introduced in Aberdeen, Kilmarnock and Perth by the end of this year, and we are also investing in hydrogen.

We have already invested £1billion in 7,000 new greener vehicles in the last decade. That has contributed to a 14% reduction in our carbon emissions between 2014 and 2019, supported by investments in LED lighting, intelligent building heating control systems and renewables. But we want to go further and faster as Scotland looks to COP26 in Glasgow in November.
Crucially, while our plans start with transformation of our own business, we have implemented a key lesson from the Climate Solutions training on the importance of understanding and working in partnership with our supply chain and other partners. We will achieve more and move faster by driving change together.

Climate Solutions challenges organisations to look critically at their own policies and processes – and not shy away from difficult choices. Making the difficult choices is central to our plans and it needs to be Scotland’s approach too. That requires national and local government to address contradictory policies and mixed messaging currently being sent to citizens. We need radical behaviour change and incentives to reward the right choices to make net zero a reality. The solutions are there – if we grasp them we can create a positive future.”

To find out more about how your business or organisation can support the global movement towards net zero emissions by taking the Climate Solutions Accelerator 90 minute online course, of the Climate Solutions Professional online course, in which participants can learn from the world’s leading experts on climate change, please email: climate.solutions@rsgs.org.