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States have ‘thrown away’ climate change opportunity

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POLITICIANS have ‘thrown away’ a chance to put Jersey at the forefront of the fight against climate change – after failing to back plans for free bus travel, environmental campaigners have warned.

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On Wednesday – just weeks after the States pledged to make the Island carbon neutral by 2030 – the Assembly rejected radical proposals from Deputy Rob Ward designed to entice more people onto public transport.

The Reform Jersey member had initially proposed making school buses free from this September, although this was changed to May 2020 in an amendment from St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft. Deputy Ward also proposed a plan aimed at making all bus travel free for under-18s and full-time students as soon as possible, and a further commitment to develop a plan by December 2020 relating to free bus transport for all.

All three clauses were rejected. The only part of the proposition to win the backing of the Assembly was to develop a sustainable transport strategy by the end of 2019, a measure that failed to satisfy Nigel Jones, chairman of environmental group Jersey in Transition.

‘There was a significant opportunity for Jersey to be among the front-runners in this area, but we have thrown that away,’ said Mr Jones.

‘We have tens of thousands of people sitting in traffic jams every day, and cycling, walking and bus travel are the only realistic alternatives. People need to change their 1950s and 1960s attitudes and face up to the realities of the 21st century – the climate change emergency is real.’

If adopted, the proposals regarding free bus travel would have placed Jersey among the leading pack of places seeking to combat climate change through their transport policies. This includes Talinn, the capital of Estonia and Luxembourg, which both provide free public transport.

Mr Jones said that efforts over many years to persuade individuals to adjust their lifestyles in order to benefit the environment had not made sufficient difference.

‘This is an area where government policy and investment is needed in order to achieve what’s required. If this doesn’t happen, we’ll just carry on digging a hole which our children and grandchildren won’t be able to dig themselves out of.’

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Charles Alluto, chief executive of the National Trust for Jersey, was also disappointed with the outcome of the debate.

‘The States need to consider how to incentivise more people to use public transport, change to low-emission vehicles and increase cycling and walking,’ he said.

‘The counter-argument that will always be proffered is affordability, but if we are going to tackle climate change in an effective manner then we may need to consider applying the polluter-pays principle and having a small but reasonable increase in fuel duty.

‘If this is agreed, then it absolutely crucial that the proceeds are ring-fenced and applied to appropriate carbon-reducing measures, such as enhanced discounts for bus travel and reducing parking charges for low-emission vehicles.’

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