Sunday, 17 July 2011

Climate Change and the Railways

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the threat from man-made climate change is enormous. As Sir David King, until recently the Chief Scientific advisor to the Government, said ‘Climate Change is the biggest threat to humanity that we have ever known, bigger than terrorism’.

What then has this to do with railways? Rather a lot. Transport is responsible for about 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

So nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are from transport. Looking within that one sees that 85% of global CO2 transport emissions come from cars, planes and trucks.

So nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are from transport. Looking at the table one sees that 85% of global CO2 transport emissions come from cars, planes and trucks.

Planes produce eight to eleven times the CO2 of high speed rail. Lorries emit about six times more CO2 than trains for every ton carried. Lorries also carry most of the freight. A shift to buses and trains would cut transport CO2 emissions by 80%.

Investing in trains
In order to combat global warming it is necessary to invest in alternatives to cars, planes and trucks. Trains are especially useful for replacing plane travel and road travel. High speed trains can replace many domestic and European flights. Transferring freight from road to rail will play a key role in building a sustainable future. Important improvements to the railway infrastructure, including electrification and gauge clearance will be required. New rolling stock will be needed to deliver the low carbon transport future.

The UK railways were privatised in the early 1990s. The result has been an unsatisfactory and expensive service. The interest of the railway operators is primarily commercial to maximise their profit for shareholders, and not keeping ticket prices down. The government needs to take responsibility once again, and ensure that rail capacity is increased so that companies like Bombardier can flourish. World War Two.

In some ways, the model for what we want to do is what happened in World War Two. Then all the great powers of the world took control of their economies and directed industry to make as many weapons as possible, as fast as possible. The Second World War rearmament boom did not bankrupt governments. Instead it created jobs and lifted the whole world out of the Great Depression. We need to do the same thing now, but in order to save jobs and prevent runaway climate change.

Why Derby?

Some people argue that it doesn’t matter where rolling stock is manufactured and what counts above all is value for money. This argument loses sight of the basic need to invest more in railways and railway manufacturing. It makes no sense to strip down Bombardier, heart of the British railway manufacturing, possibly forcing it to close, certainly losing 1400 jobs directly. The RMT union is specifically seeking justification for the Government claim that the Siemens bid represents “value for money” for the British taxpayer in light of the destruction of 13,000 jobs in and around Derby as a direct result of the plans.

Bombardier is the UK centre of railway expertise and technical resources. Destroying the capacity to build train fleets will make it extremely difficult and expensive for the UK to design and construct greener trains in the long term so that we can switch transport away from cars, planes and trucks. Increasing passenger use and the amount of freight carried on rail will reduce the levels of HGVs and other vehicles on our roads and help us combat climate change and create jobs!

It is as if the government decided to stop manufacturing Spitfires at the start of the Second World War!

This leaflet has been produced by Climate Alliance in conjunction with the Derby Climate Coalition and the Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group.

For all sources see the One million Climate Jobs Now! booklet and Jonathan Neales’s book Stop Global Warming- Change the World.

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