Eastbourne ECO Action Network (EEAN) is organising a SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT & ACTIVE TRAVEL SUMMIT at the Welcome Building, Eastbourne on Friday 17th November 2023. It will be a follow-up to the successful Sustainable Business & Solar Summit last year, which brought together solar and renewable energy experts, manufacturers, installers, landlords and financiers to explore ways of expanding solar power in the UK’s sunniest town.
Why Transport? Our transportation systems, dependent as they are on vehicles running on imported fossil fuels, are a highly significant component of ongoing damage to the earth’s life-support systems. A wealth of evidence suggests that current levels of road transport also undermine people’s health and well-being through pollution, congestion, collisions and by eroding social connections. UN Secretary General António Guterres summed up the situation in 2021:
“Transport is fundamental to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. We are already close to the 1.5°C upper limit agreed in Paris. The door is closing for action on climate, nature and pollution. We must act together, smartly, and quickly, to make the next nine years count. Transport, which accounts for more than one quarter of global greenhouse gases, is key to getting on track. We must decarbonize all means of transport in order to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 globally. We know how to make this happen. First, we must accelerate the decarbonization of the entire transport sector.”Here in Eastbourne, the largest town in East Sussex, with more than 100,000 residents, the local authorities have made various commitments. Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) have pledged to achieve a carbon neutral town by 2030 (transport accounts for about a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions). The East Sussex Local Transport Plan runs up to 2026 and seeks to improve sustainable transport, while the Transport Strategy for the South East seeks to refocus its approach from “planning for vehicles” to “planning for people” and “for places”. However, progress has been agonisingly slow. As a report by AECOM put it in 2019 “Eastbourne has experienced a significant increase in highway congestion in recent years. All strategic highway routes to/from Eastbourne are very congested at weekday peak times.” Many recent planning documents talk confidently of a 10% “modal shift” from cars to bus, bicycles and walking. Achieving this would, however, require a massive increase (well over 100%) in cycle and bus use. Last year East Sussex County Council was rated among the poorer performing local transport authorities in England in terms of delivering the government’s objective of ensuring 50% of trips in England’s towns and cities are walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030. The key question is: how can the transport system in and around Eastbourne be made more attractive, efficient and sustainable without undermining the economy and causing undue disruption to locals and visitors? The Sustainable Transport & Active Travel Summit, organised by EEAN, EBC, and Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, will explore these themes by bringing together a range of expert speakers and exhibitors – from companies running electric buses, to pioneers in cargo-bikes for “last mile” deliveries, designers of cycle infrastructure and leafy public spaces to purveyors of car clubs and solar-powered car-park canopies. There will be panel discussions, video presentations and lots of networking opportunities. The audience will include elected representatives, businesses, community groups, transport planners and local institutions from schools and colleges to the NHS. This blog post was written by Robert McGowan, a director of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC.