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UK ONS report finds significant challenge remains to reduce road transport emissions; sector GHG emissions up 6% from 1990-2017

A new report by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) finds that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from road transport in the UK rose by 6% from 1990 to 2017. The increase—albeit lower than the increase in road traffic—highlights the significant challenge in reducing emissions from road transport, the report says.

Among the other findings of the report:

  • At the end of 2018, 0.5% of all vehicles licensed in the UK were ultra-low emission vehicles.

  • Road traffic in Great Britain increased from 255 billion miles traveled in 1990 to 328 billion miles in 2018—an increase of 29%.

  • Total fuel used for road transport in the UK remained relatively stable from 1990 to 2017 as the fuel efficiency of newer vehicles has improved.

  • Patterns in the fuel used by newly registered cars are changing. In 2018, 64,000 ULEVs were registered for the first time in the UK—up 20% on those registered in 2017 and representing 2.1% of all new vehicle registrations. New registrations of gasoline-fueled cars continued to increase in 2018, while those of diesel continued to decrease, leading to the proportion of all licensed cars that were diesel falling for the first time in 20 years.

  • However, over the entire period, gasoline use in the UK fell from 27 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1990 to 13 Mtoe in 2017, while the use of diesel has increased from 11 Mtoe in 1990 to 27 Mtoe in 2017. Diesel use exceeded gasoline use from 2005 onwards.

    Figure 2_ Diesel use for road transport overtook petrol use from 2005

    Source: Office for National Statistics – UK Environmental Accounts, Energy Use datasets

  • In 2017, GHG emissions from road transport made up around a fifth of the UK’s total GHG emissions.

  • Emissions of many pollutants that are particularly damaging to health (carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides) have reduced following increasingly stringent exhaust emission limits.



It will continue to trend upwards now as people are abandoning diesel for gasoline, and moving from hatchbacks to SUVs.


It's deeply frustrating to watch our politicians, especially at the national level, being paid to lie by the fossil fuels industries, and knowing they are exchanging our children's lives in the future for immediate profits. Our only hope is to vote them out ASAP.

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