Turning round transport

Submitted by AWL on 1 May, 2019 - 1:00 Author: Mike Zubrowski

Analysis by the Financial Times on 25 April shows how the UK transport sector is failing to move towards the UK’s already meagre climate targets.

According to provisional official statistics, transport accounted for 33% of UK emissions last year, the highest proportion of any sector.

Levels of car travel and purchase remain very high. Fewer than 1% of cars bought are electric (due to high cost). There has been no significant decrease in road vehicle emissions since 2003. Slight reductions in emissions by cars have been offset by increases from online deliveries.

Aeroplane greenhouse emissions have more than doubled from 17.1m tonnes CO2 equivalent in 1990 to 35.5m tonnes in 2016. The number of planes flying has fallen slightly, but the size of the planes has increased hugely.

Improved technology has only slightly offset that, and does not look set to do so any more in the near future. Heathrow’s third runway will hugely increase the number of passengers flying.

Short-haul flights (proportionately more polluting than long-haul) have expanded most in recent years. The frequent “business flights” are higher polluting as they are more likely to be “business class”, with fewer passengers per plane.

To tackle climate change requires as fast as possible a reduction in aviation and car transport, and a transition of vehicles into being efficient and green. We need huge investment in cheap collectively-owned public transport, especially trains, and in infrastructure to support and encourage walking and cycling and to reduce commuting.

Efficient and electric-powered transport, and spending on further public research and development into this, must be coupled with green energy production. Cargo bikes, electrically assisted where necessary, can perform courier and logistics functions where necessary.

Finally, shorter working weeks and larger quantities of paid holidays would reduce time barriers to use of high-speed rail rather than aircraft.

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