Investment in active travel and public transport needed to counter climate emergency

16 May 23 | By pp-admin | Advocacy

16 May 2023 marks four years since the ACT made a formal declaration of climate emergency.

On this day, Canberra agencies involved with active travel and public transport gathered together to discuss how improving opportunities for non-car travel can make a significant impact on the territory’s emissions. Groups that came together involved Pedal Power, the Conservation Council ACT, the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR), Living Streets and the Canberra Environment Center.

“The ACT Government has identified transport as one of the largest sources of emissions in the territory and it recognises that an additional 40–45 per cent of car journeys need to shift to active travel and public transport by 2045 to achieve net zero emissions.” Executive Director of Pedal Says Copland.

“The draft Active Travel Plan outlines initiatives that would reduce the reliance on cars, but there are no timeframes on these projects,” continues Copland “We are asking for a commitment to deliver the proposed cycling network for Canberra, within the next five years, by designing, building, and upgrading cycling infrastructure to make it safer and more convenient for Canberrans to leave their cars at home”.

Elle Lawless, the Director of the Conservation Council pointed out that “Four years on from the ACT Government’s declaration of a climate emergency, we have yet to see a significant reduction in emissions from transport. The Synthesis Report of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6-SYR) released in March 2023 is unequivocal in its statements about the urgency required in global emissions reductions.

“Keeping warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels requires deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors. Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C.”[1]

“The Conservation Council supports actions to phase out petrol vehicles, but there are many other modes of transport that could significantly reduce Canberra’s greenhouse gas emissions whilst also having important co-benefits for the city’s amenity and people’s health, wellbeing and household budgets. Infrastructure for cycling and other forms of active travel need to be explicitly prioritised and integrated with accessible public transport to empower Canberrans to make the move into affordable zero-emissions transport.

PTCBR Chair, Ryan Hemsley also calls for measures that will help meet net zero emissions.

“It has been four years since the ACT Government declared a climate emergency, and over a decade since explicit mode share targets for public and active transport were featured in its Transport Strategy,” said Hemsley.

“The one-for-one replacement of cars and buses with their electric equivalents alone won’t get us to net zero emissions by 2045. We need to be planning for a much higher proportion of trips by public and active transport. That means more investment in light rail, buses, depots and drivers, to make public transport more useful for more journeys.

[1] IPCC, 2023, ‘Urgent climate action can secure a liveable future for all’, Press release, 20 March,