Changing the way we travel

If David Raffle could change one thing to protect North East nature it would be the way we travel to observe wildlife.

My plan A for nature would be to change the way we think about transport. Transport accounts for over one-fifth of global CO2 emissions, so reducing emissions from transport is vital to tackle climate change. Of these transport-related emissions, 75% comes from road transport, 12% from aviation, 11% from shipping and 1% from rail.

Luckily, transport is one of the sectors where we can make the biggest changes as individuals. We are able to make choices about how we get around, how far we travel and where our food and goods come from. According to a 2017 paper, living car-free is the second most effective individual action that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. While living without a car, or switching to an electric car, may not be possible for some people, there are still lots of other actions that you can take to reduce transport-related CO2 emissions.

With many people travelling by car out of habit, it is important to challenge and question whether you really need to get in the car to pop to the shops or commute to work. For short journeys, it is often possible to walk or cycle. For longer journeys, you may be able to use public transport or even car share to reduce your carbon footprint.

Staying local is another great way to cut your carbon footprint. One of the positives to come out of lockdown for many people was discovering their local green spaces. While there was a temptation to rush off to more far-flung destinations as restrictions eased, I hope that these newly discovered local parks and nature reserves that helped us through lockdown are not forgotten. I am lucky enough to call Gosforth Nature Reserve my local patch, regularly making the short cycle ride to the reserve. The joy I get from watching wildlife locally is immense, and I find it far more rewarding than travelling long distances to see particular species.

It would be hard to talk about transport and climate change without mentioning flying. While aviation may only account for a relatively small portion of global CO2 emissions, this hides the huge inequalities in how much people fly. It is estimated that 80% of the world population do not fly, so it is staggering to think how much a minority of people contribute to global emissions. Giving up flying and instead opting to travel in lower carbon ways, such as by train, could dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.

David Raffle
Local naturalist

David is a young birder, naturalist and conservationist. He is currently studying Conservation Biology and Ecology at the University of Exeter. He is passionate about low carbon birding and watching wildlife locally and in a more sustainable way. He is most often found on his local patch, Gosforth Nature Reserve, looking out for birds and insects.