NEW RESEARCH SHOWS SEISMIC SHIFT NEEDED IF WE ARE TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE

Published on: 31st March 2021 by Greener Transport Solutions.
  • Transport is our biggest polluting sector, with 90% of transport emissions caused by road transport.
  • Just 1% of the UK’s 32.9 million car fleet is ultra low emission.
  • Nearly two thirds of future emissions reductions will rely on behaviour change.    

Achieving net zero is a colossal challenge and significantly more challenging than government’s previous target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.

Transport is the UK’s biggest polluting sector with 90% of transport emissions caused by road transport.  New research by Greener Transport Solutions reveals that fundamental changes are needed in government policy to decarbonise transport.  Five key themes have emerged:

i) The decarbonisation of transport cannot occur without changes to the wider economy.  ii) Technical solutions alone won’t get us to net zero, much more focus must be given to behaviour change. iii) We must ensure that fares and taxes encourage people to make lower carbon travel choices.  iv) We must ensure that access to essential services, whether by transport or digital means, is available for all. v) More devolution deals would drive faster delivery of UK wide net zero targets.

This report comes at a time when increasing concerns have been raised about lack of co-ordination and ambition in policy.  In December the National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that government still needs to identify how it will manage the links between different aspects of achieving net zero, and how it relates to other government priorities.  The NAO has recently called for a road map to decarbonise the UK car market.  In September 2020 there were 32.9 million cars in UK, of these only 1.1% (348,506) were ultra-low emission, with just under 0.5% fully electric.

Earlier this month the Public Accounts Committee reported that while government has committed to publishing a “plethora of strategies”, there is at present “no coordinated plan”.  62% of future emissions reductions will rely on individual choices and behaviours but Government has not yet properly engaged with the public on the substantial behaviour changes that achieving net zero will require.

In its final report, the Industrial Strategy Council has warned that Government will fail to level up Britain’s poorer regions or set the country on course for net zero unless more power is devolved locally, and more money is invested in green policy.

Claire Haigh, Founder & CEO of Greener Transport Solutions, commented:

“A year ago the Department for Transport set out a vision for decarbonising transport that acknowledged we need to use our cars less.  Whilst this focus is welcome, every aspect of how we plan for transport will need to change if people are to make more sustainable travel choices.  The decarbonisation of transport cannot occur without changes to the wider economy.

If Government is serious about achieving net zero, behaviour change must be at the heart of its strategy.  The Scottish Government has pledged a 20% cut in car kms by 2030.  The DfT’s forthcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan will need to include a similar 2030 commitment, along with a clear plan for how it can be delivered.”

-ENDS-

For further information

‘RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Achieving Net Zero will require new thinking, creative solutions and systemic change’ will be published on 31st March 2021 at

Notes to Editors: 

  1. Background

Transport is the fastest growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions and the biggest emitting sector of the UK economy.  Emissions in the UK are 4% higher than in 2013, and only 3% lower than in 1990[i].  Road vehicles are responsible for 90% of transport emissions[ii].  As hosts of the COP26 UN climate summit in November in Glasgow the UK will need a credible plan for decarbonising transport.

  1. About the Research

In partnership with Transport Times, Greener Transport Solutions has conducted in depth research on how to decarbonise the sector.  Detailed contributions have been received from 55 leading academics, politicians, business leaders, environmental groups and think tanks.  Five key themes have emerged from the research:

  • The decarbonisation of transport cannot occur without changes to the wider economy. We need a whole-systems approach that reflects the shift to digital connectivity, and the integration of transport with land-use planning, energy and green finance.
  • Technical solutions will be insufficient, we also need behaviour change. The 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans is welcome but it is estimated that we will still need to reduce traffic on our roads by between 20% and 60% by 2030.
  • We must ensure that fares and taxes encourage people to make lower carbon travel choices. We need a reformulation of transport pricing.  The result of repeated failures of road taxation to cover externalities is that we over consume roads.  Potentially halving APD on domestic flights, combined with rail fare increases and the continued freeze in fuel duty all give precisely the wrong price signals to consumers.
  • We must ensure that access to essential services, whether by transport or digital means, is available for all. We need a fair and just transition to net zero. Improving the affordability and availability of public transport must be a key priority.  Nearly half of workless households have no access to a car. More targeted support is also needed to ensure that low income households are able to buy EVs.
  • More devolution deals would drive faster delivery of UK wide net zero targets. Government should enable local areas to plan for sustainable growth on an integrated long-term basis and ensure that local authorities are sufficiently resourced. We need to reform transport funding, appraisal and governance so that local areas can plan for housing, jobs and transport on an integrated long-term basis.
  1. About Greener Transport Solutions

Greener Transport Solutions is a not for profit organization dedicated to the decarbonisation of transport.  We aim to transform our communities into cleaner, greener, less congested and more prosperous places to live and work, where greener transport is the affordable and desirable choice for everyone www.greenertransportsolutions.com

[i] Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge, Department for Transport, 2020

[ii] The Road to Zero, HM Government, 2018

About the Author

This post was written by Greener Transport Solutions.