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Transport’s contribution to UK emissions

As of 2019, transport was the largest-emitting sector of the UK economy at 122 mega tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), accounting for 27% of total UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Emissions from transport have fallen overall since 1990, but increased slightly in recent years (up to 2020, with effects of the pandemic). The overall fall has been smaller than in other sectors and hence transport’s share of total emissions has increased.

Net Zero 2050 target

In 2019, the Government legislated to set a net zero emissions target by 2050. If met, this target would effectively mean that the UK will end its contribution to global emissions by 2050.  Before this amendment, the UK had a long-term emissions reduction target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, set by the Climate Change Act 2008

Transport decarbonisation Plan

The Government announced its plan to publish a comprehensive Transport Decarbonisation Plan in 2020 in its formal response to the 2019 progress report from the Committee on Climate Change. This plan is expected to set out how the Government intends to reduce emissions from the transport sector in order to meet the 2050 net zero target.

In advance of this, the ‘Setting the Challenge’ report outlines the view of the Government on the current position of transport emissions, including highlighting current policies and strategies in place to decarbonise the transport sector.

Developing the policies to decarbonise all road vehicles, from motorcycles to HGVs, is one of the key strategic priorities of the report. It also highlights the role of public transport, as well as decarbonisation of the rail and aviation industries. Further, it discusses current policies and future plans for decarbonisation of the freight sector, including road, rail, and maritime-based transport.

This briefing provides information on the different sectors of the transport network and some of the key priorities for reducing emissions from those sectors.

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