Low Carbon Leader: Transport Briefing

Reading time: 22 minutes
1 September 2005

For the past 30 years, the transport sector's share of CO2 emissions (emissions resulting from the movement of people and goods) has increased at a faster pace than other sectors. From 1971 to 1997, transport-related CO2 emissions from industrialised countries nearly doubled and globally the transport sector now contributes a quarter of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere (Fig. 1). Approximately 80% of those emissions are from road transport usage and vehicle production, of which 60% is from automobiles and sports utility vehicles used to meet commuter and other household transport needs.

In this report, we highlight three key examples, each approaching transport emissions from a different angle and each achieving impressive results. Toyota, a leading auto-manufacturer has pioneered the use of hybrid technology in its vehicles and has successfully moved the electric/'gas' engine from niche to mainstream markets. Pfizer, a global pharmaceuticals company, implemented an innovative transport plan at its European Research and Development Facility in Kent, which has lead to a large scale switch from private car use by employees to alternative modes of transportation. And the Greater London Authority has implemented its congestion charging scheme, now the largest such transport management strategy in the world. The revenue generated from road pricing is being invested in low-emission public transport initiatives, such as the zero emission fuel cell buses currently being piloted in the capital.

Promoting fuel efficiency and use of less carbon-intensive fuels is a popular measure with manufacturers; acting early and investing in technological R&D are likely to allow for significant market advantage in the coming years, especially as demand for fossil fuel alternatives heightens. Volkswagen has committed to developing optimised fuels, such as biofuels (SunFuels) and synthetic fuels (SynFuels) that can be used in the internal combustion engine as an interim measure whilst giving zero emissions technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells (being pioneered by companies including UTC, Ballard Systems and Johnson Matthey) time to come to market. By improving vehicle technologies and fuel quality, and supporting the production and distribution of alternative fuels, companies such as Volkswagen allow proactive organisations like Whitbread to implement best available solutions to reduce their climate impact.

Promoting non-motorised transportation is also an attractive solution for reducing emissions from private transport use, since measures can be implemented immediately and the majority of these measures are zero-emission - walking and cycling for example. One-quarter of all car journeys are less than two miles5, a distance which could easily be covered by foot or cycle, alternatives that also have inherent health benefits. A number of cities have encouraged the use of alternative modes of transport through infrastructure/transport planning or implemented schemes designed to incentivise residents to leave their car at home.

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