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Transport emissions can be cut by a quarter to avoid a ‘climate crunch’

24 November 2008
Transport’s contribution to climate change could be reduced by a quarter by 2020 according to new research published today [1]. The research comes as the Climate Change Bill passes into law and the Committee on Climate Change prepares to release its proposal for UK carbon budgets up to 2022 [2]. Transport is likely to be a key target: it accounts for 28% of UK carbon dioxide emissions and with growing road traffic and flights is expected to increase.

Current government policies, including intensive improvements to vehicle efficiency, will achieve less than 5% reduction in CO2 by 2020. The research sets out a package of measures which taken together will:


  • Cut overall CO2 emissions from transport by 26% by 2020 on 2006 figures
  • Cut passenger travel emissions by 32% 
  • Cut freight emissions by up to19%
  • Make cars 25% more fuel efficient
  • Cut car traffic by 15%
  • Cut domestic aviation emissions by 30%

The package includes a range of quick win measures on business travel, including commuting and freight, and funding to switch local car journeys to walking and cycling. Longer term measures include a new national travel card, parking controls in new developments, changes in planning guidance and tax changes to reward low-carbon travel.


Stephen Joseph, the executive director of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“If the Government is serious about tackling climate change, it must do something about rising emissions from transport. This research tells us where it must take action, and how it can benefit the public. The measures to cut carbon emissions from transport will also help cut congestion, regenerate communities, improve health and give people real and cheaper travel choices. We will be pressing the Government to adopt these measures as part of their strategy to cut carbon emissions”

MTRU’s director Keith Buchan, who carried out the research, said:

“The package in the report is not just about tackling climate change; it would help put the UK economy on a more secure long-term path to recovery. The credit crunch has been far worse because warnings were ignored and the opportunity for early, less painful, action was missed. We should learn the lesson and act early to avoid a climate crunch.”


[1] A Low Carbon Transport Policy for the UK (full research and a summary) was initiated and carried out by consultants MTRU, and sponsored by the Campaign for Better Transport. The research began in 2005 and draft material was widely commented on over the years.

[2] The Committee on Climate Change’s proposals for the first three carbon budgets will be released Monday 1 December.