The report, based on an ‘avoid-shift-improve’ approach to reducing emissions calls for a number of short term actions and long-term policy changes.
Committee member Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said: “Reducing transport demand must be the top priority, followed by moving away from carbon-intensive journeys to cycling, walking and sustainable public transport in both rural and urban areas.”
Over 15 recommendations put forward by Senator Higgins at the Committee have been included in the report. These include recommendations for “a green network of cycle and pedestrian lanes providing safe alternative access to towns and villages. Traditional or historic rights of way could provide a useful basis for such a network.”
Also included is Senator Higgins’ recommendation on the adoption of “family-friendly cycling and pedestrian infrastructure as seen in other countries so that every member of a family can travel by bike with safe routes to schools and school drop off zones” identified as an early priority action.
She added “it is also really important that active travel infrastructure is designed in a way which supports access and mobility for people with a disability.”
The Committee also placed a strong emphasis on public transport in both rural and urban contexts recommending “an immediate expansion of public transport to provide a level of service throughout the day that can provide a realistic alternative to travelling by car.”
Senator Higgins noted “The Committee were inspired by rural public transport projects such as the “Every Village, Every Hour” project in Germany and we are recommending far more investment in public transport measures for rural and dispersed communities across Ireland.”
“The Committee also recommends that the Minister give consideration to free public transport, based on the experiences of such policies in other places in Europe. Affordability of public transport is a critical issue for people and communities in Galway and beyond and subsidised or free public transport could help encourage people to switch from private cars to public transport.”
The report also calls for a new methodology for cost-benefit analysis on major transport projects.
“We need assessment tools that better reflect the short-and long-term climate, environmental and social costs / benefits of transport projects.”
The report also calls for these revised tools to be applied to a review of previously rejected proposals including proposed “expansion of rail lines”. Senator Higgins hopes that this would lead to a fresh engagement around rail expansion in the west.
“I would like to see the Western Railway Corridor project re-assessed using the new methodology and believe the development of a railway line between Galway, Sligo and Letterkenny could be extremely beneficial from a social, economic and environmental perspective”.
Senator Higgins concluded: “With less than 9 years remaining to achieve the 51% emissions reduction target by 2030, we need early action on road reallocation and active infrastructure along with ambitious and transformative investment in quality, sustainable public transport”.
Senator Higgins successfully pushed for 2030 targets to be included in the text of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon (Amendment) Bill which is currently going through the Oireachtas.
However she has expressed concern that “The language in the new Climate Bill is still not strong enough and does not guarantee the kind of accountability we need from Government, it also has serious shortcomings in terms of climate justice and just transition. It is essential that the Minister engage with and accept amendments from myself and others to make sure this Bill is fit for purpose.”