Transport and mobility

Transport accounts for over a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, but there have been few signs of progress in reducing the climate change impact of this sector in recent years[1]. About 15% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions come from cars, with the total number of miles driven increasing year-on-year. At the same time, official advice to government is that all new cars and vans should be electric in 2030 or soon after. This would involve a major change to the status quo: in 2017 only 2% of new vehicles were electric[2].

A different type of challenge is presented by aviation. As a proportion of national emissions, this has so far been relatively small. However, for those who do fly, it is likely to represent a significant part of their carbon footprint. While other sectors are set to see their emissions reduce over time, aviation is projected to grow substantially in both relative and absolute terms. By 2050, it may account for as much as a third of the UK’s overall emissions2 – despite that flying is something done mainly by those on higher incomes.

The CAST Centre will look at ways to address our reliance on cars, and our choices and expectations around aviation. We are working with Cardiff City Council to test interventions with households that recognise the role of physical infrastructure in influencing people’s decisions. Our research will look at the lessons to be learned from towns and cities have been able to move to more sustainable approaches to travel. Together with the NGO 10:10, we will also examine workplace initiatives designed to reduce air travel. As part of this, we will take seriously our own responsibility to reduce emissions from flying, through establishing a low-carbon research culture in the Centre.

Changing the way we travel has the potential to benefit our health – both in terms of reducing air pollution experienced by families that live in cities, and from increasing physical activity through walking and cycling. We will therefore consider the importance of people’s health in our work with the public to envisage and shape better future societies.

[1] UK Committee on Climate Change (2018). Reducing UK emissions: 2018 Progress Report to Parliament.

[2] UK Committee on Climate Change (2019). Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming.

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