A couple of weeks ago I said that I’d like to look at transport a bit more, and invited your submissions and ideas. Today I want to briefly explain why I think we need to talk about transport.
First of all, here’s a breakdown of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2014. Energy supply is still the biggest slice of our emissions, which is why it’s quite right to focus on electricity generation and the transition to renewable energy.
Transport is the next biggest contributor of greenhouse gases, accounting for almost a quarter. But it’s when we look at the trends that the problem can be seen most clearly. Here’s how the picture has changed for each of those sectors, in the last couple of years that we have good data for, and since 1990:
In the last 25 years, emissions from our energy supply have fallen by 41%. Housing and the business sector are getting more efficient. We’ve made big strides in waste management – it’s easy to forget that recycling was almost non-existent in Britain in 1990, and investment in recycling and the landfill tax have slowly brought that under control. ‘Other’ is also doing well, and if you’re wondering what that is, it’s the public sector and various industrial processes such as cement manufacturing.
In fact, every sector has moved in the right direction, and that’s good to see. Transport, however, has made the least progress. By a considerable margin, it’s the sector that’s not pulling its weight.
If we are to meet our carbon targets, every section of society needs to be working to reduce its environmental impact. We can prioritise some over others, and pursue the easiest routes to decarbonisation, so there’s no reason to demand equal reductions across all sectors. But since we’re looking at an 80% cut by 2050, no source of emissions gets a pass. Transport, with it’s poor 3% fall since 1990, is not moving fast enough.
So that’s the main reason why I want to look at the topic, and over the next few weeks I want to answer some of the key questions – what’s the core problem? What possible interventions are there? What can be done to accelerate change?
Thank you to everyone who has sent in material, links and ideas on this so far, and keep them coming. This series is going to be something of a team effort.