Thinking bigger than just estimating carbon impacts of Local Transport Planning

20 October 2022

Aether is one of the largest UK environmental data consultancies that specialises in national greenhouse gas emission inventories across the world.   

We have witnessed the pitfalls of developing complex carbon emission models too early without understanding all stakeholder needs, expertise available and data flows.  

We see a significant risk that local transport authorities’ response to QCR guidance of Local Transport Plan 4 will be to rush into purchasing or building complex and inflexible tools that stakeholders find difficult to engage with. This will miss the opportunity for a paradigm shift on how climate data can be used to support the public sector response to enabling sustainable economic growth.   

Developing greenhouse gas estimates (baselines and scenarios) is much bigger than an off-the-shelf toolkit. 

Good data systems that can inform decision making and provide trusted ongoing tracking of progress rely on a strong five-pillar combination of:

  1. Good coordination, leadership and mandates for engagement (governance);
  2. Clear and well thought-out communications (stakeholder engagement);
  3. Specialists and generalists (expertise);
  4. Reliable and trusted input data (data flows);
  5. Transparent and flexible processes, approaches and methods (systems and tools). 

The holy grail of a one-size-fits all carbon tool that identifies the perfect solution in isolation does not exist.  The questions are too complex and still poorly defined to start with a calculation toolkit, especially if digital twin platforms are cited to do this anyway. 

Governance and stakeholder engagement, thinking bigger, the power to convene and a coalition for change.     

Early thinking on the QCR outputs and the value added they provide for a wide range of decision-making stakeholders is critical. This can be achieved by engaging all stakeholders early in the evidence gathering and problem identification beyond just carbon reporting and beyond just transport.  

For elected members, chief executives, and sectoral directors, the Local Transport Plan 4 period will mark a golden opportunity to develop a coalition for change on how climate data is used to inform a bigger set of growth challenges including cost of living, aging populations, levelling up, and spiralling health problems.  

The people (who have expertise and data) need to be found, nurtured, and retained internally. 

Technical experts thrive in a stable environment where they are valued and supported. Experts develop quickly where they can draw support and learn from national, regional, and international peers.   

They will function efficiently with clear governance, direction and where they see their outputs being of value. Supporting experts with guidance, processes and systems that facilitate data gathering, analysis and knowledge sharing is crucial to the public sector achieving their net zero goals. This will provide further empowerment and purpose in their roles. 

Internal ownership and approaches to nurturing and retaining those people will pay short- and long-term dividends to our national net zero goals by retaining excellence within the public sector.  

Whether dealing with “big” or “small” data, system thinking is critical for good data interpretation. 

Systems need to be in place to enable experts to collaborate efficiently, especially when they are drawn together from different departments and organisations. 

Data is messy by nature (because of gaps, uncertainties, and the need for metadata to fully understand it), so its management needs an effective system to support transparency.  

This goes back to the heart of governance, leadership and putting people first. Systems need to work for the experts who support decision makers and not the other way around. When experts shape and define the systems around an understanding of decision maker needs, measuring and reporting becomes second nature, transparency is achieved and future decision making is more likely to hold integrity.   

A paradigm shift in thinking about the value of data.  

There is now a golden opportunity for a shift in thinking on how LTP 4 becomes the catalyst for change in using climate data for sustainable economic growth. 

Now is a critical juncture to get measuring, reporting and verification right to help support the creation of sustainable economies. These sustainable economies need to be empowered by adapting knowledge and building understanding through a flexible, expandable framework that provides good data governance, trusted expertise, reliable data flows, value added systems and well informed and engaged stakeholders. 

 

About the authors: Kirsten May and Jonny Riggall are climate change and environmental analytics consultants working at Aether, one of the UK’s leading climate change, air quality and environmental data specialists. Our mission is to ensure environmental data supports better decision making for the communities we serve.   

See all news

Testimonial

Don't just take our word for it...

“Saint Lucia embraces the professional approach with which this project was undertaken by Aether, particularly their ability to develop mentorship relations with local government experts. This provides a basis for ensuring that the pool of local experts remain engaged and recognized over successive processes.”

Annette Rattigan-Leo, Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer

“It has been a pleasure to work with Chris Dore and Richard Claxton from Aether: they did their job in a very professional and timely manner. The workshop was organized and carried out in a cooperative spirit; the information provided to the workshop participants was complete and clear.”

Alina Novikova, UN/ECE Secretariat

“Aether's approach to couple innovative visualisation with high expertise manpower delivered valuable insights for our inventory work.”

Umweltbundesamt (Germany)

“The professional service provided by your company was of very high quality and completed within agreed timelines.”

Matthew Dudley, UNFCCC Secretariat

“The Aether team were a joy to work with and I would recommend the consultancy - the service provided throughout the process was exceptional. Where there were problems, they provided solutions. The team were working to very short time scales but were able to deliver a high quality piece of work within the specified time frame.”

Sefton Council - for the Merseyside Atmospheric Emissions Inventory

“Both the face-to-face training and the online version have been of high quality, with dynamic methods and a practical orientation that have allowed students to reach a solid knowledge base. The products have been delivered within the stipulated deadlines with an excellent quality and the team has always shown willingness to make adjustments according to the requirements of CONAF. We are very satisfied with the work. ”

Javier Cano Martín, Professional Unit for Climate Change and Environmental Services, CONAF (National Forestry Corporation), Chile

“The support provided by Aether for this project was especially remarkable considering the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools and methods used in order to engage local stakeholders really added value to the capacity building of the national team.”

Shanna Emmanuel, Saint Lucia BUR Project Coordinator

“Chris was excellent to work with and always very pro active in making suggestions, taking work forward and applying his considerable technical knowledge in effective ways.”

Robert Vaughan, Defra Air Quality Team

“Professional team and very collaborative communication. Effective result in terms of suggestions for improvement in the quality of the inventory and proposals on how to streamline specific topics.”

Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research

“Aether is a great partner for work in the area of European Air Emissions. The team was committed, reliable, well organised and had a deep technical understanding and motivated other partners with their good spirit.”

Umweltbundesamt: Environment Agency Austria

Contact us

Get in touch

Call us on +44 1865 261 466, complete the short form below, or go to the Contact page

 Security code