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Exploring the decarbonisation of transport

– 3 min read

Unlock Next Gen member, Greg Milburn, has explored the topic of UK transport: how it impacts net zero targets and key considerations to creating a more sustainable network across the nation.   

When you travel, do you consider your carbon footprint?  

The mode of transportation we use to commute accounts for about 30% of CO2 emission, making it one of the most important climate decisions we face on a daily basis. ‘Convenience culture’ has seen many of using cars over our own two feet for small trips - with about 60% of one-to-two-mile trips being made by car.  

The pandemic has affected all forms of transport, from cars and public transport in cities, to buses, trains, and planes nationally and internationally. Attitudes towards travel have also shifted, with a daily commute no longer being essential for many of us, and a lot of worldwide business being handled via video calls.  

With the worlds of work and travel seeing such significant changes, planning the future of transport has been made more complicated, with many concerns over what is required of our transportation networks moving forward.  

And with improved air quality and the majority of us opting for a healthier lifestyle, what is being done to keep CO2 levels lower than they were before the pandemic?  

 

Electric vehicle infrastructure 

  • The Government plans to focus on improving UK charging networks to meet the demands of electric vehicle (EV) users in a bid to phase out new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.  
  • Over £1.3 billion will be spent to expand the charging network and boost grid capacity to keep up with increased EV demand, as the UK would require around a 20% increase in power generation if all cars in the UK become electric.  

 

Shift from road and air to rail 

  • The French Government has banned domestic flights where an alternative train route is available and journey times are under two and a half hours. This is part of its strategy to increase climate and environmental measures that have a carbon saving alternative. However, as domestic flights only account for 1% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, decarbonising trains, buses, and private transportation should be higher on the list of priorities on the road for net zero.  
  • For the UK to make a greater transition to rail over air transportation, increasing and improving our railways is essential. 
  • When shifting from air to rail travel, key factors to consider include:  
  • price  
  • convenience  
  • supply and demand 
  • efficiency  
  • time to destination.  

 

Decarbonisation of the railways 

  • The UK Government aims to achieve a zero-emission rail network by 2050.  
  • Phasing out all diesel trains by 2040 through electrification, as well as battery and hydrogen technology.  

 

Local public transport and active travel 

  • While it’s no secret that walking or using public transport over our cars is the more environmentally friendly option, a transport network that takes a holistic approach to travel needs to be introduced. This includes considering how people may get to and from stations by walking, cycling, or even using e-scooters. 
  • Public transport must increase in frequency, reliability, affordability and user-friendliness for everyone to make it favourable over private transport.  

 

Inflation 

  • The price of transport continues to rise, with transport costs rising by 11.7% in 2021 – notably driven by the increase in fuel prices and second-hand car market.  
  • How do we make sure transport is affordable and sustainable for all?  

 

With the way we get around each day having a big impact on our carbon footprint, it’s worth asking ourselves: 

  • Should I go on a ‘flight diet’? 
  • Can I walk or cycle all or part of my journey?  
  • Are there any forms of public transport for my journey?  
  • Could my next car be electric?  
  • Is carpooling possible?  

 

References:  

How our daily travel harms the planet - BBC Future 

We must press the accelerator on transport decarbonisation - NIC 

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