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The transport policies needed to cut carbon emissions in the UK

Friends of the Earth have commissioned a series of research papers on the transport policies that are needed to cut carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The papers will focus on emissions from cars in urban areas, as this is where significant and rapid carbon savings can be made, while improving quality of life for the 80% of people living in towns and cities.

Government policy on reducing carbon from cars is mainly focussed on vehicle electrification. While this is essential, the scale and speed of carbon saving that is needed means that electrification is insufficient on its own, and demand management to reduce traffic volumes will also be necessary.

Politicians are nervous of action to reduce traffic because it has (wrongly) come to be seen as ‘anti-motorist’. However, policies to reduce traffic have multiple benefits, and can and should be designed so that there are more winners than losers.

The research papers by Transport for Quality of Life are listed below:

An Eco Levy for driving: cut carbon and clean up toxic air. (19th February 2020)

A pay-per-mile Eco Levy on driving plus free local buses and Swiss-style public transport frequencies would meet our obligation to tackle the climate impacts of cars.

Transport is the UK’s biggest source of carbon emissions. And whereas emissions from other sectors of the economy are falling, transport carbon emissions are still going up. The government’s strategy of gradually switching from petrol and diesel to electric cars while allowing traffic to grow will not reduce carbon emissions fast enough to meet the Paris Climate Agreement. Even with a faster switch to electric cars (which is necessary), we will need to cut car mileage as well.

We believe the fairest and most effective way to reduce car mileage is through a form of road pricing – a pay-per-mile Eco Levy on driving.

Transforming transport funding to meet our climate targets. (4th November 2019)

Money shouldn’t be a barrier to providing brilliant public transport and cycling infrastructure. This briefing outlines the many sources of funding used overseas and makes recommendations for the UK.

Transforming transport to meet climate targets will cost money. It will also save money through improving health by reducing air pollution and increasing active travel. This paper identifies the numerous ways that money can be raised for sustainable transport, including through adopting tax raising approaches used very successfully by other European countries and through scrapping spending on roads that will exacerbate climate change.  A lack of money is not the reason the UK is doing so poorly on trains, trams, buses and bikes – the problem is the lack of political will to prioritise sustainable transport and put in place the funding streams to make it happen. A PDF version of this article is available

A radical transport response to the climate emergency (26th October 2019)

Transport is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and emissions are rising. This briefing outlines far-reaching changes to deliver the reductions needed and ensure a decent transport system that works for everyone. Full report available (pdf).

An Eco Levy for driving: cut carbon, clean up toxic air and make our towns and cities liveable. (23rd October 2019)

This is the sixth in a series of eight papers commissioned by Friends of the Earth on the transport policies that are needed to cut carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. The first paper showed that we will need to reduce demand for car travel significantly, in addition to a rapid transition to electric vehicles, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels1.

Previous papers have explored how alternatives to driving (i.e. public transport, walking and cycling) should be improved, and how land use planning should be changed, to make this possible.

This paper considers what action is necessary to discourage driving, both in urban areas (which are the main focus of these briefings) and for long-distance travel on the strategic road network. It focuses in particular on the potential for an Eco Levy road pricing scheme to reduce carbon.

It explains why road pricing is needed in both towns and cities and also outside urban areas.

It also reports on evidence on the impact of existing urban road pricing schemes on traffic and carbon. It looks at how road pricing could be designed to be fair and achieve public support, and considers the objectives, framing and design of an Eco Levy road pricing scheme. (Full report PDF)

A net zero carbon budget for the whole transport sector (27th June 2019)

Analysis shows Department for Transport plans will cause UK to breach carbon budgets; radical new plan needed to cut aviation and road transport carbon by 2030. Full report available (pdf)

Getting the Department for Transport on the right track (24th May 2019)

A damning indictment of the failure of the Department for Transport to give proper regard to the Climate Change Act. Full report available (pdf).

Segregated cycleways and e-bikes – the future of urban travel (5th April 2019)

A third of urban journeys could be by bike with investment in segregated cycleways and e-bikes. Full report available (pdf).

Transforming public transport (15th Feb 2019)

Free bus travel should be offered in the UK to the under 30’s as a stepping stone to free bus travel for all. Full report available (pdf)

Planning for less car use (3rd Feb 2019)

Urban sprawl needs to be stopped. We need a diverse mix of new developments in existing urban areas with high quality public transport, cycling and walking. Full report available (pdf).

More than Electric Cars (1st Feb 2019)

Even a very rapid switch to electric cars will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough. In addition, traffic levels need to be reduced by at least 20%. Full report available (pdf)

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