Reducing the speed limit: an easy way to cut carbon emissions from travel

Nothing (much) to do with ICT, although some ICT might help a bit with enforcement. This is an easy win – what the UK Energy Research Centre, a government-funded research body calls a ‘quick hit’ on carbon reduction.

It’s really easy to understand – reduce the speed limit, so people drive slower. Their engines run closer to the optimum speed, so they use less fuel and emit less CO2. No clever unproven technology required, no complex and unfamiliar behaviour change needed – just driving a bit slower. And of course, some side benefits in less road deaths and reduced noise from traffic.

The UKERC calculated that just enforcing the existing speed limit on motorways would remove 1 million tonnes of CO2, and reducing the limit to 60mph would remove almost as much again. Read the report, published in 2006, and weep that no-one has taken a blind bit of notice.

So why do we spend so much time and effort thinking about technology-based solutions that might not work, and/or might cost a great deal? Partly, I suspect, because the kinds of organisations usually called upon to give advice about transport issues tend to like complex technology-based solutions, because that’s the kind of thing that they do. And partly because our democratically-elected politicians are more scared of offending Jeremy Clarkson and his like than they are of climate change. After all, climate change is some time in the future, but a bad headline in the Daily Mail is right now.

Time for a national campaign to lower the speed limit, I think.

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