Road emissions up despite improved fuel efficiency

A report from the Office for National Statistics titled Road transport and air emissions has indicated that Britain is not on track to reach net zero road emissions by 2050, as emissions from road transport have increased rather than decreased in the past two decades despite improved fuel efficiency in most vehicles. Recent reports from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have shown record demand for zero-emission electric vehicles, despite decreasing general demand for new cars, reported on here. Despite these figures, the Office for National Statistics has reported increased road emissions. These increases have been attributed to increased road traffic over the past two decades, from 255bn miles travelled in 1990 to 328bn miles travelled in 2018, an increase of 29 per cent. With these figures, greenhouse gasses from transport made up about a fifth of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

Though the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 32 per cent between 1990 and 2017, emissions from road transport increased by six per cent over the same time period. The improvements to fuel efficiency and transitions toward electric vehicles have done little for the automobile industry’s sustainability records, as drivers spend more time on the road. Transport remains one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and as bus and train journeys become less popular, the effort by climate activists to get more vehicles off the road has been delayed.

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