A few days ago I wrote about why we need to pay more attention to transport emissions. Today I want to look at where transport emissions come from, and what the biggest challenges are. It won’t take long. Here’s a hasty graph drawn from the Committee on Climate Change :
For better or worse, international aviation and shipping aren’t covered by national emissions plans. They’re treated through separate agreements, such as the one on aviation negotiated this year. That doesn’t mean we can ignore it, but it does mean that the government won’t feel much obligation to act on aviation or shipping.
The bit it can focus on is domestic emissions, and it’s very obvious what the biggest problem is. So what do we mean by surface transport? Here’s how that divides up:
By some distance, the biggest source of transport emissions is cars – and I imagine that’s the main reason why transport emissions have lagged behind. People love their cars. Governments tackle car culture at their peril, fearful of that old tabloid accusation, ‘war on motorists’. But we need to get to grips with car culture. It’s contribution to climate change is too great to give it a free pass.
We know the easy answers to that – get on your bike. Take the bus. Realistically, it’s difficult to get people out of their cars in big enough numbers to make a difference. So we need better cars as well, different ways of driving, alongside desirable and efficient public transport alternatives.
HGVs and vans are worth noting on this graph too. That’s a sizeable chunk of our emissions going towards moving goods around. Since HGVs are also a major source of air pollution, that should be a priority.