Road transport decarbonisation must be fast and furious

Why do we need to accelerate road transport change?


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The restrictions put in place to deal with COVID-19 have reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK are provisionally estimated to have fallen by 10.7% in 2020 from 2019, to 326.1 million tonnes. And total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 8.9% to 414.1 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. Should be noted that this large fall in 2020 is primarily due to the large reduction in the use of road transport.

However, many experts expect this reduction to be temporary. Transport is normally the largest contributor to UK domestic GHGs. And, within the sector, Road Transport has the lion’s share. Therefore, road transport decarbonisation must be a critical part of the national effort to fight climate change.

Transport GHGs in 2030 will remain above 1990 levels, the European Environment Agency suggests. Even with measures currently planned in Member States. Therefore, further action is needed. Particularly in road transport, the highest contributor to transport GHGs in the continent.

Road Transport Decarbonisation is a global challenge

The impact of road transport in the global context:

Road Transport Decarbonisation in context

Note that Transport includes a small amount of electricity (indirect GHGs). As well as all direct GHGs from burning fossil fuels to power transport activities. These figures do not include GHGs from the manufacturing of motor vehicles or other transport equipment (included in Other industry, under Energy use in Industry).

Road transport: GHGs from the burning of petrol and diesel from all forms of road transport which includes passenger travel and road freight. Sixty percent of road transport GHGs come from passenger travel (cars, motorcycles and buses). And the remaining forty percent from road freight (lorries and trucks).

Assuming that, once the temporary impact of COVID ends, GHGs will return to pre-pandemic levels, if we could electrify the whole road transport sector, and transition to a fully decarbonized electricity mix, we could reduce global GHGs by around 12%.

And, if we could make the manufacturing of motor vehicles more sustainable too, we could reduce global GHGs ever more.

Final thoughts

In a previous life, I was a kart racing driver and a big Formula 1 fan. Fast and furious was one of my favourite films. But things change. Now, I mostly travel by bicycle and the only motorsport I watch is Formula E.

Since I started P27, I have been advocating for a more sustainable way to run businesses and live. Over ten years ago, it was not exactly fashionable. Now, sustainability and ESG factors are common words in business and political conversations everywhere. I welcome this and plan to help decarbonise road transport – fast and furious.

P27 has just joined the GFI-led Coalition for the Decarbonisation of Road Transport (CDRT), which has both national and international aims. We are proud to be part of it.

You can find all the members so far in the CDRT webpage, where you can also learn more about the initiative.