Updated: Jun 26
The Cabinet Office connected me with Ministers at the Department for Transport to help me share my views on the development of Perfect Sense AQ. They want to add the voices of young people to decision-making about the future of transport and continue these meetings in the run-up to COP26.
To mark Net Zero Week, I was invited to join the roundtable by Rachel Maclean MP to give a view on the government's newly launched Transport Decarbonisation Plan, what's important to me and an idea of using transport as a teenager. We also got the chance to talk about how more young people can get involved in conversations about policy and climate ambition, but also to say what we need now to progress with our work. Here are my thoughts on the themes from yesterday's first roundtable.
On what policy idea or new innovation would best help the UK reach net zero transport
I'd like active transport added to the hub for green transportation, technology and innovation. With my own invention and user stories for people who want to protect their health, including asthmatics, I see science, technology and data as enablers to make changes in our daily lives.
Providing better data and information helps people to make better decisions about their journeys, and everyone deserves the healthiest start to each day. That meant collecting my own data on my walking route to school because that wasn't available from the DEFRA monitoring sites in Leeds or at a hyperlocal level from an app on my phone, for example, the air quality index from Apple maps.
On trends, I see amongst young people today that will affect how we all travel and get around in 2050
Public transport is expensive for my friends in the city and me, so we tend to walk as much as possible. The bus is a more viable option for getting into the city centre, but the infrastructure isn't in place today, so I can use more direct routes to go across the city. So if I want to visit my friends or go to the cinema in another part of Leeds, we tend to go into the city centre first and then get another bus. The public transport system needs to be a lot more efficient.
The other thing is that we all have bikes, but we choose not to use them to cycle to school or get around the city. So, on the one hand, it's great to see more segregated bike lanes in the centre of Leeds, but until we can ride in them where we live, we're making a decision based on safety concerns not to use our bikes for active travel. I also think it's essential that our local council continues this work alongside the central government because they know our city best.
By getting more young people involved in the UK's efforts to reach net zero transport
Based on the statistic that 98% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK in 2020 used a smartphone, I believe that technology can drive progressive changes in transport. Young people are influencers. We model change, set trends, influence each other and can significantly influence family members at home. The government needs to leverage that and link it to the technology in our pockets.
In the same way that tackling air pollution is often talked about as 'making the invisible visible', we also need to share examples of how the UK will look 10, 20 and 30 years from now if just a tiny percentage of the population changes today to decarbonise. This country-wide effort needs immediate action, and everyone needs to make changes for a sustainable future.
Some people find it hard to imagine a future decade away, and my latest work is to immerse myself and others in the future using extended reality. Aggregating different datasets lets people see what their community will look like if they DO or DON'T make the necessary changes today. More to come on this work!