Car use is at an all time high in Great Britain. We are using them for increasingly shorter journeys which is putting strain on our roads and creating more congestion. Resultantly, green transport such as walking and cycling are much more difficult and dangerous: Every year around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents. Cars account for 81% of our journeys, walking for 3%, and cycling only 0.5% according to the ETA. Over the last thirty years there has been a rise in car ownership, with 77% of households in Great Britain now owning at least one (RAC Foundation). With these figures in mind it’s not hard to calculate that emissions are still higher than 1990 levels in the transport sector. However, this extensive source of greenhouse gases is not solely a problem here: the transport sector plays a critical role in global energy consumption as countries industrialise to allow greater transportation of trade and as people commute to better paid jobs. Without critical action in developing countries the World Bank suggest that emissions from this sector will increase rapidly, and cost of future mitigation may be “prohibitive”. The potential impact of growth from the transport sector as countries develop is colossal, and infrastructure changes are energy-intensive.
Transport is responsible for around 25% of EU Greenhouse gas emissions (Figure 1), making it the second largest emitter after the energy sector (The European Commission for Climate Action). Emissions from transport increased 36% from 1990 to 2007. In 2008 the EU set legally binding targets for new cars to emit 130 grams of CO2 per km by 2015 and 95 grams in 2020 as shown in figure 2. Results of this in 2014 were that on average, 2.6% less CO2 was being emitted in new cars. This suggests we are taking positive steps in reducing emissions, however, in light of recent news that car manufacturers have been cheating their test results it is hard to know what is actually being done. Volkswagen cheated emissions tests in the US by installing devices in the car that could detect when they were being tested and change the performance accordingly to improve results (BBC News). This has been admitted to extend to 8 million cars across Europe. Transport & Environment estimated two-thirds of claimed gains of CO2 emissions since 2008 have been through manipulating tests, so real progress has been very limited.
Figure 2 – Emission reduction targets in the EU http://www.smmt.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/Infographic-1-FINAl-final.jpg
Although cars are the major source of emissions in this sector, aviation is increasing; doubling in emissions in the last 20 years. It currently accounts for 3% of the EU’s total GHG emissions. Alarmingly, a return flight from London to New York would produce the same energy to heat a home for a year. Aviation and maritime sectors are experiencing the fastest growth in emissions in the increasingly globalising world. Policies must be made in all kinds of transport in order to bring around a significant change. By 2020 global international aviation emissions are projected to be 70% higher than 2005 unless we take action to prevent this (European Commission). Only the EU have implemented action for domestic aviation to reduce emissions: Aviation has been included in the Emissions Trading System since 2012 in attempt to reduce impact across countries within the European Economic Area. Like with industrial installations, airlines receive tradable allowances covering a certain level of carbon dioxide emissions from their flights per year. This has a lower cost to society in comparison to a fuel tax, with wider environmental benefits if permits are set high enough to be in demand. There is a call for aviation reductions to be included in the Paris COP coming up in December.
Climate and energy proposals target to reduce GHG intensity of fuels by 6% by 2020. Although some measures are being taken to reduce emissions (especially within the EU) it is limited unless we can achieve a global action plan in reductions. Industrialising nations are a particularly important area to target if we want to lower global emissions because there is great potential for increases there. Targets should be included in the Paris COP to improve efficiency of transportation worldwide.