A new research report recommends a comprehensive package of transport policies that could reduce UK transport sector greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2020 from 2006 levels. The research comes as the Climate Change Bill passes into law and the Committee on Climate Change prepares to release its first proposal for UK carbon budgets up to 2022 on 1 December.
Current government policies, including intensive improvements to vehicle efficiency, will achieve less than a 5% reduction in CO2 on 1990 levels by 2020, according to the report, “A low carbon transport policy for the UK.” The report was prepared by Keith Buchan of Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU) and sponsored by Campaign for Better Transport.
The report sets out a package of measures which, it claims, if 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 to 19%.
- Make cars 25% more fuel efficient.
- Cut car traffic by 15%; and
- Cut domestic aviation emissions by 30%.
These reductions would be in line with those required for the UK generally to achieve 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, according to Buchan.
The report recommends a range of policies spanning activities such as increasing walking to aviation and deep sea shipping. They vary in impact but are mutually supportive and need to be implemented as a package, according to the report.
Vehicle technology and low-carbon fuels. The UK car parc has about 27 million private cars, with a refresh rate of about 15 years. Recommended policies to encourage technological change in the vehicle fleet include:
First year charges on cars related to their level of emissions to increase annually to 2020 and applied per gram above an efficiency reference level, at least 130 in 2012, 100 in 2015 and 90 by 2020.
Efficiency reference level to rise annually as technology becomes available and thus the charge on less efficient vehicles will also rise in real terms.
Air conditioning and other power consuming devices to be included in g/km calculations.
Vans brought within car standards scheme.
Fuel duty to rise in line with predicted improvements in efficiency to avoid rebound effect.
VED increases to be slowed down as the least effective means of changing purchasing behavior.
Reduce work-related car travel. Work-related travel accounts for 37% of total CO2 emissions from passenger transport: 24% from commuting and 13% from travel in the course of business. People are taking long journeys by themselves: 91% of car commuting and 87% of business car trips are single-occupancy journeys.
For the short-term, the report recommends policies including altering the tax treatment of business use of private cars to reward low-carbon vehicles and to reduce incentives for high business mileage. The use of active traffic management systems can make longer road journeys more efficient.
For the longer term, the report suggests tax breaks for low-carbon commuting and business travel to promote cashback and green bonus schemes that reward people for not driving to work. The government should also serve as an example for supporting low-carbon commuting and business travel.
Reduce journey lengths and transfer short car journeys to walking and cycling. Between 1985 and 2005 average annual mileage per head (excluding foreign travel) increased by 35%, though the number of trips was broadly unchanged. This is the result of the interaction of transport policies with land use planning. Car journeys of less than five miles account for 20% of passenger transport CO2. Shifting some of these to walking and cycling will help cut congestion and obesity and improve health too.
The market for land, and decisions about how it is used, depend crucially on transport. This is a two way relationship—transport demand arises from land use and land use patterns are made possible by the availability and cost of transport networks. However, there is an intervening factor at work—behavioral choice, in other words how people react to the many different combinations of location and methods of travel which are available to them.
The report recommends establishing a national funding scheme for smarter transportation, deploying £200 million (US$302 million) a year for 10 years with a phased start up. The program would be purpose based with specific initiatives for: shopping (including home delivery, local collection centres, local outlets, local sourcing); schools (including walking and cycling initiatives but with school safety zones and non-statutory school bus initiatives in rural areas); workplaces (including established techniques to encourage video conferencing, car share, public transport, cycle and walking); and leisure.
Policies such as a new “walkable streets” fund, cycle priority networks and bike hire schemes in major towns and cities, along with reformed street priorities and street design to increase safety should make walking and cycling a real option for short journeys.
Planning policies should reduce the need to travel and should support higher density development around high-frequency public transport. Policy statements on economic development and shopping should include a stronger focus on developments in rather than outside town centers.
Longer term policy recommendations include:
New parking policies, including maximum parking levels in new commercial developments, reducing over time, and charges for car parking over these limits, with the revenue going to reductions in business rates.
Better local services and shops in new developments: housing developers should give endowments rather than one-off planning gain deals to fund these.
Use eco-towns and eco-developments to show it’s possible to create developments where people can choose not to own a car.
Expose real transport costs of other decisions: Government decisions on the location/centralization of health, education, leisure and other facilities (like post offices) should take full account of increased transport costs and emissions and the results of such analysis should be made public.
Increase public transport trips. Improving public transport in association with the other policies already mentioned would produce a “total sustainable travel offer” to allow households to replace second and third cars and to target other journeys producing large CO2 emissions, such as “chauffeur” trips where parents act as unpaid taxi drivers (15% of passenger transport CO2).
Cut freight emissions. Freight transport accounts for 36% of UK transport CO2 emissions: 23% for trucks, 12% for vans and 1% for rail freight. Emissions from this segment are growing faster than emissions from cars. The report recommends:
Introducing road charging for trucks, with incentives for greater efficiency and reductions in vehicle duty.
Increasing rail freight by increasing capacity on the rail network and using the planning system to locate new freight warehousing next to rail lines.
Increasing water freight and reducing its emissions by promoting the use of more local ports, use of biofuels and more efficient ship designs.
Reducing van emissions through encouraging cleaner vehicles and fuels through tax breaks and regulation, as now applied to cars, and also driver training and vehicle maintenance.
Cut aviation emissions. The report recommends tackling emissions from the aviation sector by reducing demand. The government should promote videoconferencing as part of business travel initiatives, and the current Air Passenger Duty should be replaced by a charge per aircraft, adjusted by weight and distance. For the longer term, further rail enhancements including high speed lines should be planned as an alternative to short distance flights. Domestic aviation should pay fuel duty and VAT with money raised used to cut other taxes and charges and invest in rail.