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Transport and Climate Change

Executive summary
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Trends in UK transport emissions
Chapter 3: Cost-effectiveness and the current UK Government approach to cutting transport carbon emissions
Chapter 4: Recommendations to deliver greater cost-effective carbon savings from transport by 2020
Chapter 5: Conclusion
Annex 1: Glossary
Annex 2: About the Commission for Integrated Transport
Annex 3: Summary of methodology to calculate carbon savings


Climate change has recently risen to become one of the top political issues of our day. The damage we do to our own environment, the relatively small actions we take that have such a major impact on the world around us and the disturbance to climate caused by our everyday lives - should be a cause for concern amongst us all.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the calls for action to halt this dangerous spiral have been growing, with a particularly strong emphasis on what Government should be doing.

One of the responses by the UK Government has been to set a 60% reduction target by 2050 for the carbon emissions that are widely accepted as one of the key causes of climate change. Much of the responsibility for hitting this target rests on the transport sector, as one of the prime and growing causes of carbon emissions in the UK today.

In our role as a key advisory body to Government on transport, therefore, the Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) has put together this substantial report in order to:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank every member of the Working Group for their dedication, time, and effort in producing this report. It represented a substantial piece of work to research, pull together and draft, and provides an excellent contribution to a very topical debate.

Finally, we would like to stress that it is incumbent on all of us - not just Government and its advisers - to understand the impact that our own behaviours have on the environment around us. We sincerely hope this report sheds useful light on what we might do, practically and cost-effectively, to reduce the impact of our individual choices.

Peter Hendy, CfIT Chair and Michael Roberts, Chair, Climate Change Working Group

Executive summary

Climate change is now one of the biggest issues facing humankind. In identifying what needs to be done in the UK, there is much focus on the role that measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport can play alongside action elsewhere in the economy.

Options to cut transport emissions essentially involve addressing one or more of the following: the demand for movement; the choice of transport mode; the technical efficiency of vehicles; the carbon content of the fuels used to power them; and the efficiency of vehicle use.

Technological improvements have delivered carbon-reduction benefits, but in some cases these have been either offset or out-stripped by rising demand and choices made by transport users - trends that are set to continue in future unless action is taken now.

Transport (including international transport) is now the largest end-use category of emissions in the UK, accounting for between a quarter and one-third of UK carbon emissions (depending on which definitions are used). Within this, road transport is the main component, of which cars are the most significant element.

In the UK, transport has been the only sector whose carbon emissions were higher in 2005 than they were in 1990, a period in which reductions achieved by other sectors of the economy helped deliver a cut in total UK carbon emissions of just over 5%.

Emissions from air travel, and from the movement of vans and lorries, have been among the fastest-growing sources of transport emissions in the UK. Emissions from cars have been stable since 1990, while those from public transport have fallen.

While there is no shortage of ideas about how transport emissions might be reduced in future, the current state of knowledge on which individual options and packages of measures are cost-effective relative to other transport and non-transport policies needs to be strengthened. This is vital to identifying the optimum response across the economy to cutting emissions: we have reviewed existing evidence in this area and used it to inform our recommendations.

Some studies suggest that transport has a major role to play as part of an economywide set of cost-effective measures to reduce carbon by at least 60% from 1990 levels by 2050, but the significance of that role compared with the contribution of other sectors grows after 2020 or 2030 as technological developments take real effect. These analyses need to be treated with caution and may understate the short and long-term potential for cost-effective carbon reduction in transport emissions, and the potential for packages of measures that target both behaviour and technology to be more cost-effective.

The Government's own approach is informed by modelling which indicates that transport emissions could potentially fall by as much as 45% against 2000 levels by 2050, helping to deliver its goal to cut UK emissions by 60% by this date against 1990 levels. In the shorter term, the impact of the main programme of current policies to tackle transport emissions, if delivered successfully, would be to avoid growth that would otherwise happen and to stabilise transport emissions at broadly 2005 levels by 2020.

While we support the Government's efforts in tackling CO2 emissions within the transport sector, the transport element of the Climate Change Programme (CCP) appears to depend heavily on relatively expensive, technology-based measures to deliver emissions savings by 2020 - and there is an additional opportunity to capture greater cost-effective carbon savings through measures to encourage behavioural change.

We have identified scope for an integrated set of measures that builds on the measures included in the Government's Climate Change Programme in a cost-effective way. This would significantly increase the carbon savings that would otherwise be expected from the CCP and would mean that, for the first time, emissions from this sector could begin to fall against 1990 levels. The combined effect would increase cost-effectively the carbon savings expected from the CCP by 71%, which would mean that transport emissions would fall by 14% against 1990 levels by 2020, instead of stabilising broadly at 2005 levels.

Key features of our approach are a focus on tackling either the largest or fastest-growing areas of transport emissions, and an emphasis on measures to encourage behaviour change by transport users as a way of 'locking in' the benefits from technological developments.

We have identified five key packages of measures to deliver additional carbon savings from transport by 2020:

There are also issues that need to be tackled now with regard to the longer-term contribution of transport to emissions reduction, such as the pathway for future technological change, and the roles that road pricing, land-use policy and emissions trading can play as part of a longer strategy to address transport emissions.

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