Focus on Emissions from Transport

           Carbon and Climate

The Climate Change Act has established a target for the UK to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050, against 1990 levels. A series of five-year carbon budgets act as stepping stones in the lead up to 2050, with a reduction of 35% by 2020 for the third budget.  The UK has so far been successful in meeting it carbon targets, with emissions falling by 13% in the last three years to reach 38% below 1990 levels in 2015.

The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recent report, which considers the UK’s progress against carbon targets, shows that emissions have fallen rapidly in the power sector as the result of a reduction in the level of coal-fired generation, as well as an increase in generation from renewables. But a reduction in the carbon intensity of the power sector is not enough on its own to meet future carbon budgets and therefore greater progress will need to be made from other sectors, such as transport.

In 2015, 24% of the UK’s emissions were from transport, which is the third largest sector after power and industry. However, transport emissions increased by 1% between 2014 and 2015, and has seen a reduction of just 1% since 1990.

UK Emissions Changes by Sector


 Source: DECC Provisional GHG Statistics 2015

Existing policy measures have improved the efficiency of new vehicles but growing levels of road travel has outweighed these improvements. The CCC is calling for both an extension and improvements to the policy for efficiency in new vehicles. This should include extending the targets for electric cars and implementation of policies to address the remaining cost barriers.

Within the transport sector, approximately 61% of vehicle emissions are from cars and 17% from HGVs. With regard to HGVs, the Freight Transport Association manages a voluntary initiative, known as the Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS) for freight companies to record, report and reduce carbon emissions. It currently has 120 members and a review of the scheme published this year showed that LCRS members continue to make significantly greater progress in reducing carbon emissions compared to the freight industry as a whole. A reduction in CO2 emissions of 8.3% is expected for 2015, against 2010 levels. The full Logistics Carbon Review 2016 includes case studies detailing the different approaches each has taken to achieve carbon reduction. These include improvements in fuel consumption gained through better driving techniques, engine performance, fuller vehicles, as well as the use of fuels with a lower carbon intensity than traditional fuel, such as natural gas, biofuels and electricity. The CCC has recognised the LCRS scheme as a means to help the freight sector reduce its carbon intensity but has said it would like to see a higher level of take up.

Continued innovation points to opportunities for reduced levels of emissions from transport such as the use of drones, and software that re-routes couriers based on real time data. The widening of International Standards for sustainability to include the supply chain can also be expected to encourage the take up of efficiencies and innovation, as suppliers strive to meet their customers’ environmental requirements. However, the CCC calls for specific policy actions to be taken by the government in its emissions reduction plan, which is due to be published later this year. The CCC’s Progress Report to Parliament report can be found here.

Nikki Wilson

Nikki joined Alfa Energy in September 2015 as a Carbon Management Consultant where she advises clients on legislation, compliance, and the implementation of carbon management schemes. She is a Practitioner member of IEMA, has a postgraduate diploma in Environmental Decision Making, and has over 15 years’ experience in energy consultancy.