With the recent announcements from global car manufacturer, Volvo that it will stop making petrol and diesel cars by 2019 in favour of electric or hybrid models and that France plans to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, the impact of transport emissions is high up on the global news agenda.
Transport accounts for around a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions and affects air quality at the roadside. Our reliance on cars, vans and lorries, and the consequential impact on the environment has never been more striking.
The UK government has committed to an economy-wide target of 80 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, although its policies and strategies to achieve these levels of air quality are somewhat muddled and lack accountability. Even with the commitment for new diesel and petrol vehicles to be banned from 2040, more needs to be done.
Transport will obviously play a fundamental role in this strategy and leaders have begun to introduce policies for low emission zones and congestion charges, starting in London but increasingly spreading across the UK. Yet, in spite of these policies and recent improvements in technical efficiency and fuel economy, the UK government is failing in its legal obligation as total CO2 emissions from UK private vehicles are not decreasing as quickly as had been hoped.
This is having a devastating affect on the health of our nation. According to the World Health Organisation,
'transport is one of the main sources of air pollution, for which evidence on direct effects on mortality as well as on respiratory and cardiovascular disease is firmly established'.
So what more can be done? Well, we need to encourage consumers and businesses to make more rational decisions when purchasing private or fleet vehicles. However, we’re still sleep walking on this issue. We’re hoping that electric vehicles and technological breakthroughs will save the day.
The strategy needs to go beyond this, and soon. It is vital that public and private sector organisations commit to encouraging behavioural change. There is a need for leadership from the public sector, not just transport authorities but also from the healthcare sector.
The ultimate aim must to be to reduce emissions by promoting public transport choices, supporting the market for innovative forms of transport and encouraging a move to cleaner and lower carbon vehicles.
For our part and for UK businesses, our SmartGo workplace travel network can play a helpful part as part of a wider approach in encouraging the greater use of sustainable options.
For more information, visit www.smartgo.co.uk