Over-Ambitious Targeting can still be used to better ourselves

As more unobtainable targets by ambitious politicians and businesses surface, we must not solely focus on the doom-mongering of failing to reach them.

After a highly ambitious pledge by SNP to replace the majority of its diesel buses with fully electric by 2023 is expected to fall short [1], a lot of people are getting upset and angry. There are mitigating circumstances such as COVID related supply and manufacturing issues, inflation on raw materials and also the global shipping problems, but only managing to accrue a fleet of at most 600 buses when the target was more than triple is not ideal publicity.

But what if we look at a different perspective? Quite often, beneficiaries of long-term investments aren’t the generation making the investments, it’s the ones who follow. Before the report, Scotland had 272 electric buses in its fleet. That number will end up more than double, and is statistically double the proportion of the UK average. That is a positive step in making Scotland’s air cleaner, especially as these vehicles are used in major built up areas. But there is no guarantee that the funding for the remaining 325 buses that are on order would have been sourced had it not been for this target.

There are some targets, like A&E waiting times, which cannot be discussed in this manner. You are talking about an endemic problem that has immediate effects and consequences. These kind of targets are an important metric for success or failure, and must be worked on in both the short-term and the long-term.

When discussing targets for long-term projects, the results and arguments for both sides need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Even if numbers fall far short, regardless of mitigating circumstances, any move in the right direction should not be written off as a complete failure. We must also look at the legacy and impact of any progress made under any scheme that fails to meet it’s largest expectation. Would the changes that a scheme has produced still have happened without setting a target? And how much of it would have happened? If a scheme leaves at least a 50% improvement on projected changes before the announcement of a scheme and targets, we must see that there is a small yet significant success in part. If the legacy starts more projects to continue improvements to reach or surpass the target in the future, it again is also a small success.

It’s also not just down to consumers. Corporations, businesses large and small, and also governments all have a duty to work together to improve the world we live in. It cannot be pinned on end users alone when necessity is driven by business choice. For instance, the switch to paper bags from plastic in a few retailers have made a small dent in reducing plastic waste. Paper is much more easily recycled and can be done so more often. But until it is adopted on a greater scale, and by a great deal more retailers, plastic bag waste is still a huge problem. This goes for all environmental, health and economic concerns.

We only have one planet and a finite amount of resources. Futureproofing the world around us, both the man-made infrastructure and the natural world combined, is absolutely necessary if we want our society to span many more generations to come. Some progress might be too little, too late, or be less beneficial as first thought. But if it starts a chain reaction that leads to bigger and better improvements, it can’t be all bad.

[1] https://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/ambitious-snp-pledge-to-scrap-half-of-scotlands-diesel-buses-by-next-year-wont-be-achieved-3830785?fbclid=IwAR38wxk1f6EbZ3RZ1knenKldYbXQsaYIQbeMSx165Mlgbb4s0ckxRaDUYmE

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