Home Opinion Calls to tackle UK air pollution focused on transport sector

Calls to tackle UK air pollution focused on transport sector


In February, the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that between 1990 and 2017, the country’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 42%, as Environment Journal reports. However, last year, transport remained the UK’s most emissions-emitting sector.

With the sector having been responsible for 27% of the country’s total emissions in 2018, campaigners have recommended that transport is overhauled via various eco-friendly measures.

An environmental conundrum, but a potential solution?

In 2016, transport surpassed energy as the UK’s leading contributor to air pollution, with annual CO2 emissions having held steady at roughly 125m tonnes since 1990.

This has led campaign group Friends of the Earth to declare the urgency of a “radical reimagining of transport”. With this project, the group claimed, the UK could reduce car journeys – still a large factor in the country’s transport-related carbon emissions – by roughly a fifth.

Without this move, however, the UK would fall short of climate change targets even if the uptake of electric cars increased, according to Friends of the Earth.

Various measures of easing transport emissions

The range of measures suggested as part of the potential overhaul includes the introduction of free bus travel, which would cost £3bn yearly but also help to tackle the public health issue of obesity. Furthermore, the £3bn would remain a fraction of overall road spending.

That’s according to Mike Childs, who heads research at Friends of the Earth and said: “Dozens of cities across the world offer some form of free public transport. What we are seeing instead is bus fares rising 75% over the last 15 years and over 3,300 services reduced or removed since 2010”.

The Government responds

However, a Department for Transport spokeswoman quoted by The Guardian pointed out: “As set out in our Road to Zero strategy, the government’s ambition is for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero-emission by 2040. We are investing £1.5bn to make this happen.”

She added that the Government’s expenditure on supporting bus travel totals £250m each year, while an extra £1bn is set aside for the free bus pass scheme. The DfT has also handed out over £6m to fund the building of hundreds of rapid charge points for ultra-low emission taxis.

How citizens and businesses can act on the carbon challenge

Friends of the Earth has also called for the rail network to be expanded, having identified 33 schemes capable of, by the group’s reckoning, reconnecting 500,000 people with the network. However, signs already abound that public transport is reducing car usage.

One recent analysis mentioned by BBC News revealed that many young people in cities were deciding against using cars. These vehicles do, however, remain crucial in rural areas.

Individuals and businesses alike may therefore remain largely reliant on their own vehicles for the time being, although savings can still be made. For example, firms can take out fleet insurance to enable any driver in the company to use any of its fleet cars, thereby helping to reduce the fleet’s necessary size.

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