It's one year since the publication of the Government's Transport Decarbonisation Plan which set out how it intends to meet the UK's commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Whilst most other sectors have seen substantial reductions in their emissions, transport – the UK's largest emitting sector – has remained stubbornly high.
A year on from the plan's publication, delivery has inched forward but we think there's a lot more the Government could, and indeed should, be doing in order to achieve net zero, specifically in enabling a shift towards greener transport.
Buses are already one of the greenest forms of transport – contributing only two per cent of the UK's domestic transport emissions – but we need to improve service provision to enable more people to travel by bus. New funding to do that was allocated in April, but only two in five authorities received a slice of it, leaving many facing potentially devastating service cuts after the summer.
Accelerating the roll-out of zero-emission buses will also contribute towards our net zero target, in addition to driving further improvements to air quality. A consultation on the phase-out of diesel buses has now concluded and the Government is inching closer to its ambitious target to deliver 4,000 zero-emission buses by 2025 with a new tranche of funding announced. But of the 38,000 buses nationally, only 12 per cent are currently hybrid and only two per cent are zero emission, so much remains to be done.
To help buses reach their carbon-cutting potential, Campaign for Better is calling on the Government to:
- Lead a communications campaign alongside industry to increase public transport use post-pandemic
- Increase funding for local buses and replace competitive funding pots with long-term allocations for all local authorities
- Set out a long-term funding plan and explore the role of innovative funding mechanisms for zero-emission bus delivery
Rail is the greenest major form of transport. Travelling by rail produces less than a quarter as much greenhouse gas per passenger mile as driving. So anything the Government can do to shift journeys from cars to trains will help achieve net zero.
But there's plenty that can be done to make rail even greener. The Government has committed to decarbonising the railway by 2040, but the scale and pace of rail electrification must increase.
To help the railway do more towards net zero, Campaign for Better Transport is calling for:
- A freeze on rail fares for 2023
- A simpler fares structure
- A rolling programme of rail electrification
The Government is relying heavily on sustainable aviation fuel to reduce emissions from flying without curbing how much we all fly, but so-called 'Jet Zero' is still decades away. In the meantime, there's plenty the Government could be doing to reduce carbon emissions from aviation.
Campaign for Better Transport wants to see:
- Cheaper train tickets to compete with budget airlines and reduce domestic flights
- The introduction of a kerosene tax on domestic and EU/EFTA flights
- Stop all plans for airport expansion until 'net zero flights' are a reality
- Businesses to commit to a 50 per cent reduction in flying by 2025 or sooner
- Labelling on airline tickets to show comparison carbon emissions between rail and air, so that people can make informed choices
By their very nature, walking and cycling are zero emission, so the more of these we all do the better. The Government has invested £2 billion as part of the Walking and Cycling Investment Strategy to ensure that half of all journeys in towns and cities are cycled or walked by 2030 and to provide a 'world class cycling and walking network' in England by 2040. A new body, Active Travel England is now in place to ensure infrastructure delivered is of a high quality and the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy has been refreshed. But what else could be done?
Campaign for Better Transport would like to see:
- A requirement for all local authorities to review walking and cycling infrastructure provision and prepare plans for delivery
- More community programmes to inspire more people to take up cycling and remove barriers to doing so
Electric vehicles are without doubt the linchpin of the Government's net zero strategy and of course electrifying fleets is both necessary and important. Fully electric cars now make up 12 per cent of the new car market and the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, which is now due to progress to legislation, will accelerate this.
However, electric vehicles are not a silver bullet, and still have social and environmental drawbacks. Non-exhaust emissions account for over 90 per cent of particulate matter emissions and by becoming cheaper over time, electric vehicles are projected to increase road traffic in the UK by more than 50 per cent.
So, as the Climate Change Committee highlighted last week, decarbonising transport "should not be all about replacing fossil-fuelled vehicles with electric ones". More action is needed to “limit traffic growth, shifting travel to public transport and active travel”.
Campaign for Better Transport wants to see:
- Measurable targets for reducing overall car use like already exist in Scotland and Wales
- Reform of motoring taxation
- Investment to ensure public, shared, community and active travel are attractive and viable alternatives to the private car
As we speed ever closer to the 2050 deadline, we must keep up the pressure on the Government to introduce the necessary measures and investment to achieve net zero. We cannot rely on electric vehicles alone to solve transport's carbon emissions, we need to also shift our reliance away from cars towards other, more sustainable modes of transport.