Aldersgate Group

Transportation needs a systemic overhaul to reduce emissions

UK-based Aldersgate Group, an alliance of sustainability-minded leaders, has published a new report that calls for an overhaul of transportation systems in order to reduce emissions. The report argues that investing in new technologies and infrastructure, along with improvements to the overall efficiency of transportation will be crucial to decarbonize the transport sector.

Carbon emissions in the UK have fallen 42% since 1990, as the nation has incorporated more renewable energy sources into its power sector. But the report points out that within the transport sector, emissions have remained relatively flat. Transportation accounts for 28% of total emissions in the UK.

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“Government needs to fundamentally rethink its transport policy and work across departments to deliver the modern and ultra-low emission transport system the UK needs,” said Nick Molho, executive director of Aldersgate Group, in a statement. “This means taking an integrated view of the whole transport system to ensure that new transport infrastructure projects deliver the best environmental and economic outcomes, empowering local authorities to develop low-carbon transport systems, incentivising greater resource efficiency across the automotive industry and targeting innovation support to technologies that can help cut emissions.’

The report outlines six provisions that it says will help cut transportation emissions and help the nation further progress in its bid to transition to low-carbon systems.

1. Establish an integrated road and rail strategy: An integrated road and rail strategy would include shifting road freight onto the UK rail network and developing a national bus strategy.

2. Devolve long-term funding and key powers to local authorities to cut emissions from short journeys: The report calls on local authorities to develop integrated transport strategies at the local level, including expanding cycling and walking networks. It also proposes local authorities ensure new housing developments are connected to sustainable forms of transport.

3. Improve local air quality by moving the most polluting journeys outside of urban areas: With poor air quality representing the most significant risk to public health in the UK, establishing Urban Consolidation Centers (UCCs) can reduce inner-city freight traffic and consequently improve air quality in population centers. The report proposes the UK establish a national network of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) with shared air quality goals and standards.

4. Grow the UK’s global manufacturing base for Low and Zero Emission Vehicles: The report proposes a suite of policies to help the UK grow its manufacturing base for low and zero emission vehicles. Those include setting tightening CO2 emission standards for vehicles what can be implemented once the UK leaves the EU; installing widely accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure, particularly in areas where the EV infrastructure is lacking and cost-prohibitive from the market’s perspective, such as in rural areas; and finally, guaranteeing upfront purchase grants for EVs to help drive the market until the mid-2020s.

“Given the significant challenges faced by the UK’s automotive industry in light of recent announcements by Honda, Nissan, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, the UK cannot afford to be left behind in the global race to design and manufacture low and zero emission vehicles,” the report states.

5. Provide targeted innovation support to complex parts of the transport sector: Investing in new innovative technologies and conducting trials for zero emission technologies such as hydrogen and renewable biomethane can help the UK address emissions in long-distance hauls and Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCVs). The report suggests the UK pursue a rail electrification strategy, too.

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6. Use measures announced under the Resources and Waste Strategy to drive greater resource efficiency across the UK transport system: The UK government can incentivize industry to use more resource-efficient components in manufacturing and production. Such measures might include  extending producer responsibility schemes and product standards. The report suggests incentives could include long-lasting performance tyres, the re-use and reconditioning of electric vehicle batteries for second-life appliances, and a greater use of secondary materials in vehicle manufacturing.

Download the full report here.

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