Large cuts in transport emissions of carbon dioxide are essential if the UK is to meet its climate change targets. And that means making radical changes in our transport lifestyle. These changes would also boost the green economy, increase energy security, support healthier lifestyles and create stronger communities.
The 2008 Climate Change Act established a target for the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 to limit global warming to 2°C. Progress is monitored by five-yearly carbon budgets by the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
Their latest report identifies that the UK is not on track to meet the fourth carbon budget (2023-27) and that despite progress in cutting emissions from other sectors, transport emissions continue to grow.
Meeting future carbon budgets will require reducing domestic emissions by at least 3 per cent per year, including car travel reductions of at least 5 per cent beyond baseline trends.
An expert report 'A low carbon transport policy for the UK' by Keith Buchan of MTRU has set out the central role that transport plays in CO2 reduction. The messages are clear.
- We can't cut carbon with engineering solutions alone. We need fewer cars as well as newer cars, with better greener transport alternatives.
- We need to stop building infrastructure that makes the problem worse, such as major new roads and runways.
- We need to reduce the need to travel by locating homes, jobs and services where people already live.
- We need to reprioritise how we fund and price transport so that low carbon options are top of the list.
Cutting carbon is mission critical, not mission impossible
We know what the solutions are: it's time for action.
- Reduce work-related car travel
- Cut freight emissions
- Promote active travel, walking and cycling
- Cut aviation emissions
- Increase public transport options
- Promote low emission vehicles
- Reduce road traffic and stop building major new roads
The Government can help make this happen by using existing transport funds to support carbon reduction transport projects. As a nation we are spending billions of pounds on new roads and on airport expansion that will harm the environment: this public money could be used to cut carbon instead. Reallocating even some of these huge budgets to a Carbon Reduction Fund would be an important first step.
There are lots of practical policies that could help. We're calling on the Government to increase the scale and pace of rail electrification and develop new transport interchanges to join up parts of the fragmented public transport network. We recently helped persuade the Government to support electric cargo bikes to the tune of £2 million.
Local councils too should incorporate firm targets and measures to cut emissions from transport in their transport and economic strategies
Acting on carbon will make our lives better in many ways. Reducing motor traffic will help improve air quality, promote healthier lifestyles, and protect the countryside. Reducing the need to travel will make homes more affordable and create more liveable towns and cities. Investing in low carbon transport will also create jobs and establish new industries. But we have to act now.
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