Road transport

Domestic transport emissions account for around a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions fell by 1.1% in 2013 due to falling carbon intensity of cars and vans. However, fuel sales imply that emissions are likely to have increased by around 1% in 2014, as rising demand outweighed carbon intensity improvements.

Projected emissions reductions from current policies fall short of our cost-effective trajectory and further measures will be needed to meet future carbon budgets. There is significant potential for emissions reductions through continued improvement in fuel efficiency for conventional vehicles, switching to alternatively fuelled vehicles and from changing behaviour.

Our key recommendations to strengthen existing and planned policies are:

  • Provide motor industry with greater certainty to 2030: Push for clear, stretching 2030 EU targets for new cars and vans that take account of the need for ultra-low emission vehicles and use realistic testing procedures.
  • Tackle barriers to EV uptake: Maintain support for upfront costs while they remain more expensive than conventional vehicles, provide a national network of charge points and roll out local incentives such as access to parking.
  • Ensure the tax regime keeps pace with technological change: Align existing fiscal levers (e.g. Vehicle Excise Duty) to ongoing improvements in new vehicle CO2, including a greater differentiation between rates for high and low emission vehicles.
  • Extend successful emissions-reduction schemes for freight operations: Larger freight operators have pioneered schemes to reduce fuel costs and emissions that should be rolled out across the industry, including small operators.
  • Ensure lessons from schemes to reduce travel demand are applied: Sustainable travel schemes should be properly evaluated and extended if they provide cost-effective emissions reductions.
  • Publish an effective policy framework for aviation emissions: Plan for UK 2050 emissions at 2005 levels (implying around a 60% increase in demand) and push for strong international and EU policies.

Total road emissions vs indicator (2003-2027)

Total emissions versus indicator (2003-2027)

Source: NAEI (2015); CCC modelling.


 Progress against indicators and milestonesChallenges
New car and van fuel efficiencyContinued improvement on new car and van gCO2/km, with test cycle emissions in 2014 already meeting EU target for 2015. However, there is a growing gap between real-world and test-cycle emissions. Progress driven mainly by the supply side.Agreement of challenging longer term targets at EU level needed to ensure continued progress, reinforced with use of fiscal levers. Swift move to the more representative Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).
Reducing HGV emissionsEU strategy published – first step towards setting standards on CO2. UK Low Carbon Truck Trial ongoing, looking at options including use of methane in HGVs.Agreement of EU targets for new HGV CO2. Ensuring use of methane in HGVs delivers GHG benefits on a lifecycle basis.
Development of electric car marketSales of electric vehicles quadrupled in 2014 and growth remained strong in 2015, with EVs making up 1.2% of car sales in the first quarter. The number and variety of EV models available also increased, which will help more drivers find an EV to suit their needs.To maintain this rate of growth, there is a need to: develop new, low-cost approaches to financing to allow move away from purchase subsidy in longer term: tackle remaining non-financial barriers (e.g. access to charging for people without off-street parking): agree strong EU target for new car CO2 post-2020 to provide further impetus.
Use of biofuelsBiofuel penetration fell below our indicator trajectory in 2013 and 2014 but with improvements in sustainability.In line with EU requirements, the Government should set a trajectory for the RTFO to 2020 which sets a stretching national target for advanced biofuels. The Government should push the EU to take account of ILUC factors in sustainability standards for biofuels as soon as possible following member states’ mandatory reporting of these impacts.
Smarter ChoicesSupport from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is positive but is due to an end in 2015/16Evidence suggests measures need to be sustained in order to lock-in sustainable travel behaviours.
Eco drivingEvidence of uptake in the freight sector but very low rates of training among car drivers.Active promotion of eco-driving and use in-car information (e.g. gear shift indicators, mandated in new cars from November 2014 under EU regulations) to realise cost-effective emissions savings
Freight operationsIndustry-led efforts to reduce carbon intensity of freight operations (e.g. the FTA Logistics Carbon Reductions Scheme) have been successful, but cover only a fraction of the sectorEncouraging engagement amongst the wider sector including smaller operators who face greater barriers to reducing emissions.