There is no Planet B: Lessons from ZC3’s keynote and beyond

By Jack Goddard, Senior Marketing Executive

The third annual Zero Carbon Commuting Conference (ZC3) took place on the 12th of October 2023, bringing together sustainable mobility thought leaders from across business, government and academia. In this recap, we’ll cover key highlights from sessions throughout the day. You can see our recap of our opening and afternoon sessions or watch the full conference here.

There is no Planet B

Best-selling author and international speaker Mike Berners-Lee delivered ZC3 2023’s keynote speech, demonstrating it’s no longer a question of whether we need to adapt but how quickly we can make the transition.

“I’ve been working on climate change for probably 20 years, and it had become inescapably clear that If you want to do something about climate, you have to treat climate as one symptom of something much, much bigger that’s going on for humanity right now.”

From rising sea levels to forest fires, Mike highlighted early indicators that the climate crisis may be reaching its tipping point. He described how the melting permafrost has resulted in exploding Siberian methane craters, contributing to more climate change. This, in turn, leads to drier forests, making them prone to wildfires that release additional carbon dioxide, causing further warming. It’s a dangerous chain reaction with cascading effects. Stats which support this conclusion include;

• Antarctic sea ice is 11% below the previous record
• Average ocean temperatures breaking the world record by a quarter of a degree
• September was the hottest on record, with a notable increase of around half a degree in global land average temperatures.

In the context of climate change and transportation, Mike confirmed that travel habits significantly contribute to our carbon footprint. He highlighted that air travel and cars, particularly petrol or diesel-powered cars, substantially impact emissions and air pollution and agreed the solution lies in more sustainable forms of transportation.

Sustainable commuting can send out a very powerful message about how the world needs to change and how that change can become part of living a better life and improving our quality of life. So, although, in some ways, it can feel at face value, like a relatively small emission saving in the scheme of global change, the cultural message that can go with it multiplies that power enormously.
Mike Berners-Lee, best-selling author and international speaker

Benefit-led behaviour change

As a shared-mobility expert, Georgia Yexley has helped hundreds of cities worldwide achieve their sustainable transport aims. Examining behaviour change through the lens of people, places, planet and play, her session underscored the importance of adopting a respectful and people-focused approach. When addressing behaviour change for sustainable transportation and climate action, she recommended; 

• Adopting a human-centred approach: It’s essential to approach behaviour change with a people-centric perspective, focusing on what matters to individuals rather than using the outdated ‘carrot and stick’ analogy
• Listening to what matters: Understand what matters to people, ask for their input, and genuinely care about their needs and preferences. This approach can lead to unexpected insights and success
• Joyful journeys: Sharing is caring, and the concept of joyful journeys extends beyond cycling and can encompass various sustainable transportation options, including car-sharing and public transport
• Success through qualitative data: Qualitative data collection, such as conversations and insights from people, can provide valuable information and drive positive behaviour change.

Safety is a basic right that people have, it’s not something we should strive to achieve in specific groups. What we should be striving to achieve is good journeys, positive journeys, joyful journeys.
Georgia Yexley, Founder of LOUD MOBILITY

The climate crisis is a healthcare crisis

In 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to achieving net zero, and it’s now commonly accepted that public health and climate change are inextricably linked. This session is a must-watch for healthcare travel and transport teams as Dr Matt Sawyer explored how sustainable commuting is a powerful, yet often underestimated, solution to climate change. 

Through travel surveys conducted in GP practices, Dr Sawyer revealed that even a single practice is responsible for a considerable amount of travel, with approximately a quarter of a million miles covered by staff annually. This results in around 50,000 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions annually, a significant contributor to climate change. And this impact also extends to our health, with a single practice in this example taking away over five years of life from the community it serves. 

When accounting for patient travel, the cumulative effect is substantial, with about 150,000 miles travelled, resulting in 25,000 kilograms of greenhouse gases and the loss of about three and a half years of life. These figures serve as an important reminder that our everyday transport choices significantly impact our health and the environment. 

If I invented a drug that reduced heart disease and stroke by a third, diabetes by half and some cancers by as much as 45%, as well as reducing anxiety and depression and strengthening neighbourhoods and communities without creating air pollution or greenhouse gases, I’d be a millionaire. But of course, there is something that does this. It’s walking.
Dr Matt Sawyer, GP and Director of SEE Sustainability

Behavioural science

Exploring the ‘dangerous gap’ between what we do and what we say we’ll do, 

Head of Behavioural Science at Inizio Engage XD, Dr Guy Champniss explored three ways behavioural science can help encourage greener commutes.

• Changing the social environment: Creating a context that makes sustainable behaviour more visible and appealing, such as presenting information about what others are doing
• Tweaking the physical environment: Leveraging habits, which are context-driven, by making it easier to engage in sustainable behaviours in everyday situations
• Adding something to the environment: providing crucial information or cues at the right moment, helping individuals make more sustainable choices without changing their attitudes.

Employers can use these insights to nudge commuting behaviour change with incentive schemes, education drives and gamification. Mobilityways Commutology team has successfully implemented these strategies in some of the UK’s largest employers, including Stansted Airport and the University of Central Lancashire. If you’re looking for inspiration or help putting your sustainable commuting policies into practice, get in touch with our team.

Habits are a very interesting breed of behaviour. They don’t rely on information. They don’t rely on your level of education. They don’t draw on awareness or attitudes. It’s driven by context. Habits make up around 50 of our daily behaviours, so they are incredibly influential.
Dr Guy Champniss, Head of Behavioural Science at Inizio Engage XD

Watch ZC3 in full

We’ll share more highlights from the conference, but you can catch up on all the sessions at your leisure here. If you have any feedback or questions about the day, let us know below.

You might also like:

Shaping Commuting Habits for a Sustainable Future: Insights from ZC3 2023

From rhetoric to reality: Unpacking sustainable commuting insights at ZC3 2023

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