London, England – Government must do much more than promote electric cars if it wants rapid and deep cuts in transport emissions, and must consider playing a role in helping drivers leave their cars at home, according to a new study by the U.K. Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
The report reviewed over 500 international studies and found that Britain lags behind the leading countries in use of cleaner modes of travel. Policies could have a large impact through reducing the need to travel and promoting walking, cycling, public transport and efficient driving, as well as encouraging low-carbon cars, the report said. In combination, policies to reduce car use could accelerate and reduce the cost of CO2 emission reduction, as well as relieving congestion and improving quality of life.
“We welcome the government’s recent announcements on low-carbon vehicles, but it needs to do much more than support electric cars,” said Dr. Jillian Anable, head of transport research at UKERC. “Without managing travel patterns themselves, it is very difficult to meet the technological challenges, including how the electricity is generated, at the scale and pace required. Without effective policies to manage demand for travel, emission cuts through vehicle technology will be made much more difficult and may come too late. This report looks at what can be done to harness the large untapped potential to help people travel in more efficient ways.”
The report said that advocates for public transport, cycling and walking often miss the potential of more efficient travel patterns that move services closer to people and reduce car dependence. It found that there is short-run potential in improvements to bus, cycling and walking infrastructures, car sharing, and work or school travel plans, but that the largest long-term effects come through altering travel patterns so that fewer trips rely on cars. These policies are most effective when combined with less popular measures, such as parking restrictions, road and fuel prices, and reallocation of space away from cars.
The report stresses the importance of packaging policies together so that problems with one policy can be overcome by another, citing more economical driving styles that can have a significant effect on emissions, but which need reinforcement through ongoing awareness campaigns, training, and stricter enforcement of speed limits.