I attended a conference for the European Interreg project CARE-North at Aberdeen City Council where speakers from Scotland and other northern European cities presented. The presentations in the morning were related to the Scottish context and discussed transport policy as well as business, cultural and social factors that influence transport strategies and modal choice. Professor Richard Laing discussed the importance of public engagement in transport strategy and outlined initial findings from a study which indicated that the public on the whole support initiatives to improve air quality in Aberdeen City. Philip Smart presented on the importance of engaging with the business community when trying to reduce pollution from freight vehicles. In the panel discussion there was some debate about how to overcome the issues of the politicisation of transport and a quite extensive (and polarisedl!) discussion about a suggestion that lorries be allowed to use dedicated bus lanes to prevent them becoming stuck in traffic. There was also discussion of how the economic downturn was affecting the development of carbon responsible transport strategies.
The afternoon presentations were from speakers from Leeds and some of the European partners. I particularly enjoyed the presentation from Michael Glotz Richter from Bremen about Low Emissions Zones (LEZs) and Car Clubs where he demonstrated that even though the LEZ was initially very controversial with the business community, it has been successful and has attracted widespread interest from around the world. Also, Steve Heckley from Leeds Metro highlighted the importance of developing robust (low cost) methodologies for monitoring carbon impacts which ties in with the work of the RGU team by Amar Nayak. In the final panel discussion a delegate who had worked in transport in Africa raised the point that high polluting vehicles from Europe were being exported to developing countries thus shifting the problem of emissions around rather than tackling the problem on a global scale. There were also discussions about the relative importance of developing electric and other 'clean' vehicles vs promoting modal shift to walking and cycling.
Although there was recognition of the tremendous challenges for local governments developing carbon responsible transport strategies the tone of the conference was very upbeat and I left feeling positive for the future development of low carbon transport initiatives in Europe.