Policy statement

The Carbon Challenge: CO2 Emissions from Transport

This policy statement identifies transport emissions by source using comparable metrics and highlights opportunities for the greatest reductions.

We compiled this report during a meeting of experts from across the transport sector in 2008.

Technological advances over the last 100 years have led to an exponential increase in energy use. In the main, energy has been provided by fossil fuels which scientists have linked to dangerous rises in atmospheric CO2 levels. Fossil fuels are a convenient source of power with high specific energy, which up to now have been available at an affordable cost.

The downside is that in 2007 alone the UK released 560 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Transport is responsible for 24% of the UK’s CO2 emissions and reducing its contribution is a cornerstone of the government’s aim of reducing our total greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Some key statistics:

• Road transport (which includes buses, motorcycles, scooters and light vans) accounts for just under 70% of total passenger transport emissions and it therefore has the potential to deliver significant reductions

• Rail transport offers the lowest carbon impact per passenger-km and this will improve as our energy supply becomes more sustainable

• Emissions from domestic aircraft appear to be very small but this data does not include foreign-owned airlines operating from the UK, such as Ryanair whose emissions are attributed to Eire. Foreign airline statistics are difficult to determine, but even if it is assumed that the UK’s emissions from aviation were to double if all were included, it would still be relatively small compared with road transport. However, complacency is not an option as domestic air traffic is forecast to rise by 28% by 2012

• Shipping’s contribution is also small but these figures are based only on UK registered passenger ships bunkering at UK ports


Key recommendations

  1. The current EU targets aimed at reducing emissions from cars are not stringent enough. We recommend that with an increasing vehicle fleet size, more miles being travelled and in order for any significant impact to be felt, average CO2 emissions for the passenger vehicle fleet should be revised to 70g/km by 2020 and 30g/km by 2050
  2. While technology will facilitate significant reductions in transport emissions, it is clear that changes in public behaviour will also have a huge impact. There are a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging “greener” travel but with little co-ordination. We recommend that the government includes in its strategy for emissions reduction a clear plan to provide the public with the best options for travel based on carbon cost, complimented with a ticketing structure that incentivises behaviour change
  3. In order to maximise the contribution of freight towards meeting the UK’s emission targets, the government should take a holistic approach to its freight strategy based on cost and long-term carbon benefit. It should stimulate investment in a wider hub and spoke freight network which uses all freight modes, and in particular fully utilises our short sea options



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