Five essential takeaways from the Economist Impact event on net-zero transport and infrastructure

October 28, 2022


Five essential takeaways from the Economist Impact event on net-zero transport and infrastructure

October 28, 2022

Oliver Sawbridge

Manager, Policy and Insights

Oliver Sawbridge is a policy and insights manager at Economist Impact in its new globalisation practice, and is particularly responsible for research and analysis on international trade. As the global economy is being transformed by multiple forces including geopolitics, technological progress and climate change, the new globalisation practice works with clients to navigate these structural shifts.

His insights provide context and meaning in an accessible way. They are informed by numerous years of policy experience, most recently at the Department for International Trade, where he delivered aspects of Britain’s free-trade agreement programme. Before this he was a policy and legislative researcher at the House of Commons.

Mr Sawbridge holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Auckland. His areas of expertise include geopolitics, trade and supply chains.

The transport industry is the largest emitter of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions for many countries—creating sustainable transport solutions is crucial if nations are to meet their net-zero targets. However, to de-link transport from GHG emissions we also need to assess sectors that are connected with transport, such as infrastructure.

The panel: 
  • Roger Millar: chief sustainability officer, Washington State
  • Joseph Bryan: chief sustainability officer, US Department of Defence
  • Carla Bailo: former chief executive and president, Centre for Automotive Research
As part of Economist Impact’s “Countdown to COP27” three-day event, there was a panel discussion focused on “racing towards net zero for transport and infrastructure”. Industry experts, who made up the panel, discussed new business models, technologies and policies that are imperative if the transport sector is to decarbonise sustainably. My five key takeaways from the event are: 
  • The public-private partnership is crucial to ensure a speedy transition to net zero for transport and infrastructure. Investment from both sides is critical to successfully lay the foundations for sustainable growth in the transport sector 

  • There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach as different areas and jobs require different transport solutions. Proper representation of society at the decision-making table is necessary to ensure new developments meet the needs of everyone

  • Behavioural change is essential for adoption. “Sticks” aren’t the best solution for getting rapid buy-in for new sustainable technology. There should be a focus on providing sustainable transport options and letting people choose

  • There needs to be more emphasis on securing supply chains to maintain a consistent output of essential technologies—particularly batteries. Using existing supply chains is necessary to keep environmentally friendly goods coming out the door, while creating new ones to secure the future supply of inputs. Recycling is also essential to reducing reliance on supply chains, while minimising the carbon footprint of these technologies

  • There needs to be a more concerted effort towards monitoring and evaluation: “you measure what you treasure”. Value-driven decisions informed by data are essential to make the most equitable and sustainable changes

Economist Impact provides specialist insights on sustainable transport and sustainability more generally. To learn more about these specialisms, please read analysis from my colleagues on the and

Enjoy in-depth insights and expert analysis - subscribe to our Perspectives newsletter, delivered every week