Transport accounts for almost a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions, yet recent government analysis shows that pollution from British transport will barely fall from current levels by 2020.
But now the government has accepted that greenhouse gases must be cut by 80% by 2050 in order to tackle climate change, is transport really doing enough?
Friends of the Earth believes transport must play its full part in cutting CO2 emissions.
Urgent action is needed – reducing transport’s contribution to climate change must be the priority for government policy, and the Department for Transport’s carbon reduction strategy, due next year, must signal a change of direction and pace.
This needn’t conflict with other goals that the government has set for transport – such as its contribution to economic growth – provided it is within the context of cutting emissions.
Companies can make a major contribution to cutting transport emissions.
The best starting point is to think about whether journeys are necessary.
For example, can staff work from home some of the time?
Recent government research shows that commuting accounts for 16% of journeys made, but almost a quarter of all passenger transport CO2 emissions.
Working from home even one day a week would cut emissions, not to mention costs and congestion.
Similarly, not all meetings have to be held face to face – video-conferencing could provide a good no-travel alternative.
Choosing greener cars can make a huge contribution to cutting emissions. And, of course, lower emissions also means lower fuel costs.
As fleet managers know, the choice of car is critical.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has calculated that if every car buyer replaced their current model with the same kind of car (supermini, luxury, MPV etc), but opted for the most fuel-efficient vehicle in that market segment, then average new car emissions would fall by 30%.
Fleets can also help by pressing manufacturers to go further and faster in making cars greener. In the next two months, European politicians will be trying to set new emissions standards for cars which will determine the pace of progress for the next decade and beond.
But the car industry is lobbying hard against the tough standards needed, and we could end up with virtually no progress being needed for the next five years.
Pressure from the fleet sector on manufacturers could help speed up the progress towards greener cars, whether or not we get tough new standards.
There are further ways fleets can reduce their environmental impact.
Training drivers to drive more efficiently can bring huge benefits.
Simple measures like planning routes to avoid congestion and getting lost, removing roof-racks and roof-boxes when they are not needed, using air conditioning sparingly, driving smoothly, avoiding rapid acceleration or braking, all make a difference.
The Driving Standards Agency has found that a two-hour eco-driving course could lead to an 8.5% fuel saving.
Eco-driving doesn’t apply just to cars.
The government’s SAFED (Safe and Fuel Efficient Drivers) training course for van and lorry drivers has shown excellent results, with participants’ fuel use cut by an average of 14%.
This sort of scheme should be a priority, but at the current rates of funding it will take decades to train all van drivers in the UK. Government support for SAFED must be substantially increased.
To meet our new tougher climate targets, and successfully tackle dangerous climate change, a new direction in transport policy is needed.
Companies must continue to contribute to cutting emissions.
And at a time of economic problems, cutting emissions can also mean cutting costs – a further incentive if one was needed.
n Tony Bosworth is senior transport campaigner at Friends of the Earth.