The Zero Carbon column with Jemima Parker

The A1(M) accounts for 24% of all of the emissions in the district.
The A1(M) accounts for 24% of all of the emissions in the district.

There has been a lot of talk recently about traffic congestion and its environmental impact, around Harrogate and Knaresborough. With nearly 15,000 people responding to the North Yorkshire County Council consultation it’s clearly a topic that motives many.

However, our addiction to speed and the consequences of this, our greenhouse gas emissions have not surfaced in the debate so far.

Changes in the speed limit on our district’s main roads and the A1(M), in particular, could yield a quick win for reducing carbon emissions from vehicles, as well as improving air quality and noise pollution.

Something that ZCH raised in our formal response to NYCC.

If you dig into the government’s published figures for carbon emissions in the Harrogate District (which do have some significant limitations) you find that 49% of these come from transport.

This breaks down as 11% from traffic on minor roads, and 14% from A-roads (that’s the A59, A61, A558 from Bradford to Knaresborough, A661 Wetherby to Harrogate and A6106 north from Ripon to Masham).

But the real shocker comes from the A1(M) which accounts for 24% of all of the emissions for our district.

How come this 20-mile stretch of motorway generates nearly a quarter of our carbon footprint?

It’s a combination of volume of traffic and speed.

A 10% cut in carbon emissions can typically be achieved by taking your car speed down from 70 to 60mph. More if you’re coming down from above 70mph.

It’s also safer, allowing you more reaction time and reducing the impact in crashes.

We all know travelling slower is safer and now you know it’s better for creating a viable future for our children and grandchildren too, but time is money, right?

Actually no, you can be quid’s in and enjoy a more relaxing journey.

Let’s imagine you travel a 30-minute commute each way on the A1(M).

At 70mph it takes you an hour and costs you, let’s say on a good salary, £16 in your time and £10 in petrol at 40mpg, emitting 21kg CO2.

It takes you 10 minutes longer at 60mph, so £19 for your time, but you get 54mpg and so your fuel costs are down to £7 giving the same total cost of £26 for the journey, but with only 16kg CO2 emitted.

Coming off our speed addiction can be difficult. Personally, I had to do it in stages.

Firstly, being consciously within the speed limit.

Then when I had adjusted to that, dropping to 65 on the motorway and finally down to a steady 60mph, sitting comfortably in the inside lane.

Yesterday North Yorkshire County Council discussed a climate motion, which was proposed by NYCC Cllr Richard Copper (and leader of Harrogate Borough Council).

If passed (not known at time of writing) this will require NYCC to put in place a far-reaching carbon reduction strategy to meet the proposed 2030 carbon neutral target.

One of the easiest and cheapest steps they could take would be to introduce a lower speed limit on the A1(M) and all A-roads across North Yorkshire.

In the meantime, wherever we are diving this summer, we can all choose a more moderate, low carbon, pace.