Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the UK transport sector are increasing, despite an overall decrease in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, according to a climate science publishing body.
Last year the transport sector produced around 38% of the UK’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, up 2% on 2016 figures, said the report from Carbon Brief.
The report stated the sector consumed around 77% of all oil in 2015, the latest year for which the data is available, from which the new figure could be estimated.
However, the analysis said the UK’s overall CO2 emissions from fossil fuels were currently 38% below 1990 levels and now as low as levels recorded in 1890.
The dramatic overall fall has been attributed by 2.6% drop in 2017, driven by a 19% decline in coal use in the same year. This followed a larger drop of 5.8% in CO2 in 2016 corresponding to a record 52% drop in coal use for the same year.
The government plans to close coal-fired power plants by 2025.
To improve the situation, Mott MacDonald senior transport modeller Laurence Chittock said although the road freight market had been growing, moving it to an electrified fleet – which would lower the CO2 output - might be quicker than switching the millions of cars on the road.
“Making the switch to electric vehicles, there are fewer players with bigger weight to persuade in the freight market rather than the car market where there are millions of decisions by individual people to be made,” he said. “Regulation from the government will have a greater effect on the freight industry.
“Two years ago, I would have said producing electric trucks would have been difficult, but now Tesla have produced fully electric trucks which they’re putting into production.”
In January the National Infrastructure Commission opened an investigation into how the infrastructure that supports the UK’s freight networks could be improved with an emphasis on carbon reduction.
Chittock also said there was a lag between carbon emission improvement and the production of new cars with better technology because the number of old vehicles on the road.
But he warned it would be “delusional” to think electrified vehicles were carbon neutral. He said electric cars were, “zero emissions at the point of use” and still had a carbon cost depending on the method used to generate the electricity.
On average, currently he said electric vehicles produced 80g of CO2 per km compared to 140g of CO2 per km for combustion engine cars. This figure could be lowered however by using more renewables, opposed to fossil fuels, to generate the electricity.
“If you compare to countries such as France it’s about 15g of CO2 per km as the major source is from nuclear,” he said.