Annual mileage may need to fall by 30% to keep emissions on track

Efforts to cut transport emissions could fail unless congestion is also tackled, says think tank Green Alliance. 

The study analysed fast, medium, and slow electric vehicle (EV) sales trajectories in the period up to the UK’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

The researchers found that, even under the medium sales trajectory, which the government thinks is most likely, the average annual mileage per car would have to fall by around 1,700 miles if emissions targets are to be met.

Under the slow sales trajectory, the annual average mileage per car would need to be cut by almost 30%, or 2,300 miles a year fewer, to keep emissions on track.

To be sure that the UK can hit its emission reduction targets, Green Alliance recommends that the government introduce more measures to help drivers switch to walking, cycling and public transport. 

They state that this will require greater national investment in public transport over the next decade, as well as more support for local authorities to improve facilities for active travel and to make neighbourhoods more walkable.

man driving car during golden hour

The report highlights the additional economic benefits of traffic reduction.

Shifting just 1.7% of car journeys to active travel would provide the UK with up to £2.5bn per year in health benefits. And reducing congestion would provide an economic boost, as the cost of congestion was estimated to be almost £8 billion in 2018. 

Green Alliance recommends the government takes decisive action now to set ambitious ZEV mandate targets but also take steps to manage future traffic levels. This would provide insurance in the event that electric vehicle sales do not follow the fastest uptake trajectory over the next decade.

Helena Bennett, a senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, said: ‘Switching to electric vehicles is the top priority for cutting emissions from cars, but it can’t be the only tool used to make transport greener. Better and more affordable public transport, safe cycle routes and walkable places must be a centrepiece of the government’s transport strategy.’

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, added: ‘As the report shows, transitioning to cleaner vehicles is not a panacea for tackling toxic air and climate change.

‘Instead, we need to see fewer vehicles and congestion on our roads altogether to protect people’s lungs and create a healthier and fairer society.’



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