One Way to Avert Climate Catastrophe? Free Buses in Portsmouth

Writer and environmental activist Alan Burgess has made a modest proposal to Portsmouth City Council about how our city can help save our rapidly deteriorating environment.

The global mean temperature today is 1.1 degrees centigrade higher than it was at around the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. What does this mean? Well, it means more forest fires in the Amazon, Congo, Siberia and Alaska. It means more hurricanes like Dorian. It means more heatwaves like we’ve had lately in Europe. And it means more threats to people and their homes like the recent burst dam in the Peak District.

Do we want even more extreme events than these in the future? Do we want a planet that can no longer sustain humanity?

But what can we do to stop the worst impacts of climate change? We need to do something. We need to do something in every country and every city in the world. We can do something in Portsmouth.

I have been researching climate change in Portsmouth since 2003 and I have learned that the issue of transport is crucial to cutting carbon emissions. Some advocate switching to electric cars, but they are expensive, the source electricity often comes from coal and the embedded carbon in the construction of these vehicles is environmentally damaging.

We need to offer an alternative to the private car: buses.

‘You must be joking!’ you may say. ‘Buses are too expensive, time-consuming and never seem to go where I want to go.’ But we need to radically re-think buses and public transport in Portsmouth. We need a system that’s free at the point of delivery, like the NHS, and is extensive, frequent, convenient and takes people where they want to go.

If we can build a free, much improved bus service then the economic case for private car use will quickly erode. Cars will disappear, along with their associated sources of carbon emissions.

I have submitted a petition to Portsmouth City Council which petition reads:

‘We the undersigned demand that Portsmouth City Council makes bus travel free in Portsmouth. The cross-party science and technology parliamentary select committee states: “In the long term, widespread personal vehicle ownership therefore does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation.” If this is the case we need to offer effective alternatives. Such as: improved cycle infrastructure, extended park and ride schemes and a free bus service. If bus travel is to replace car transport it needs significant improvement and investment. Portsmouth needs an extended fully integrated, convenient bus service.’

If the council is serious about calling a ‘Climate Emergency’ and reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2030 radical action must now be taken.

You can sign by clicking on this link.

Photograph by Tom Sykes of the Portsmouth Climate Strike demonstration, 20th September 2019