Reducing carbon emissions from the transport sector will be as much about changing behaviour as changing technology, says Damian Price.
Transportation is responsible for about 23% of energy-related CO2 emissions. Electric batteries, hydrogen-fuel cells and alternative fuels will only take us so far on the journey to net-zero. At times, we will also need to travel less, at different times, by alternative means or via another route.
This point was made by the Committee on Climate Change, the independent body advising the UK government. Its sixth carbon budget report published in December 2020 concluded that reducing UK surface transport emissions from 113MtCO2e in 2019 to 32MtCO2e by 2035 as part of a ‘balanced net-zero pathway’ would require low-carbon technologies and fuels, improvements in petrol and diesel vehicle efficiency, and behaviour change to reduce travel demand and shift journeys onto lower-carbon modes of transport.
Pre-COVID-19, most of the world was on the move. Globally, there were 1.4bn cars on the roads in 2018, up from 1bn in 2009, while international air travel soared to 4.7bn passengers before the pandemic, having been less than 2bn in 2004. Post pandemic, our roads and sky will fill with ever more vehicles and aircraft unless we better manage travel demand and make more efficient use of existing assets.
That’s about encouraging travellers to ask themselves four key questions before setting out: Is my journey necessary? Can I travel outside of peak times? Is there another, cleaner way to get from A to B? What if I travelled by a less busy route?