Monday, 24 November 2008

How it could be done

Today’s news:

UK transport emissions could be cut by a quarter by 2020 if the government shifted its policies, a report claims.

I’ve looked at the Campaign for Better Transport report (they used to be called Transport 2000) and it contains a package of sensible proposals and some interesting material. For example

91% of car commuting and 87% of business car trips are single occupancy journeys.

The environmental impact of moving goods by road is huge: Freight transport accounts for over one-third of UK transport CO2 emissions: some 23% for lorries and 12% for vans (rail freight is 1%). This is an area where the Government can make some big reductions in CO2 emissions. These emissions are also growing faster than for cars, even though the number of vehicles involved is tiny by comparison. The efficiency of lorries (in terms of how full they are) has been static or falling, despite a series of increases in maximum permitted size and weight designed to improve it.

Introduce road charging for lorries, with incentives for greater efficiency and reductions in vehicle duty. A previous scheme was dropped as too complex; introduce a simpler system as used in Switzerland and New Zealand, charging by weight and distance and based on “odometers” installed in lorry wheel hubs, which could be used to level the playing field for UK operators against foreign lorries.

One main reason transport emissions are growing is because we’re travelling longer distances. For example, between 1985 and 2005 average annual mileage per head (excluding foreign travel) increased by 35%, though the number of trips was broadly unchanged.

Car journeys under five miles account for 20% of passenger transport CO2 – shifting some of these to walking and cycling will help cut congestion and obesity and improve health too. It can be done: Many European cities have low levels of car use: in Vienna, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich and Brussels, cars account for 40% or less of journeys, due to planning and transport policies and support for cycling and walking.

You can download the full report and find out more here.

Naturally the government won’t take the slightest bit of notice of this report, and will continue on its way to climate catastrophe. What reports like this always ignore are the politics of transport: the influence of the road and aviation lobby, the influence of the corporate media, and the timidity and backwardness of all the three main political parties.