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Transport is a Major Contributor of Carbon Emissions in Scotland


Transport emissions form almost a third of all carbon emissions in Scotland, just behind the energy and agricultural sectors. According to Transport Scotland, transport makes up 28% of our emissions. Focusing on reduction policies within the Transport sectors plays a key role in minimising the effects of climate change.

The more we guzzle the more we emitt

But changing habits is not easy, and we like travel to be comfortable and quick. Despite the Scottish Government introducing the Smarter Choices Smarter Places grant programme and the Cycling Action Plan there still hasn’t been a move away from cars, in fact car traffic has increased by 5% since 2007. 

As we can see on the graph below, in 2017 68% of people commuted to work via van or car which is the same as it was in 2007, and the number of pupils whose main method of travel to school was via van or car actually increased from 22% to 26%. In 10 years we have not made any significant impact on the our travel choices when it comes to lowering our carbon emissions. Shocking really!

Modes of transport

So what can we do about it?

Well, we need to keep trying to make the necessary changes to using more active travel such as walking and cycling, but if that is not possible, then even changing to taking the train or bus to work once or twice a week will made a difference.

  1. Walking. No emissions. Great for mental health and keeping yourself fit.
  2. Bicycle. No emissions, gets you fit and is easy to travel around without the traffic.
  3. Electric Car with Solar Panels. No emissions. You are still inside a vehicle when it rains and gets you from A to B faster than cycling.
  4. Electric Car. 12g of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per Kilometre (km). Less contribution to emissions where you can still travel from A to B without consuming as much energy.
  5. Bus and Coaches. 60g to 100g of CO2 on average. In some cases, travelling by bus to work is actually cheaper than driving to and from work. It also excuses you from the road stress if you have to travel through peak times.
  6. Motorcycles. 68g of CO2 per km (125 cc motorbike). Where large motorbikes (over 500cc) emits up to 200 grams per 1 mile.
  7. Train. 90g of CO2 per km. Much more leg room than flight seating. You can get up and stretch your legs any time you want. You can avoid the Airport security. Choosing to take the train rather than fly has a positive effect on the climate as flying contributes to 4% of carbon emissions. Avoiding one flight trip can be equivalent to going car-free for a year.
  8. Ferry. 48g CO2 per km (Mersey Ferries). 
  9. Hybrid Cars. 90g – 100g per km. Less emissions than the usal car. Lessens your carbon footprint and can be cheaper to run.
  10. Cars. 142g of CO2 on average per km. Cars create more emissions than by travelling by bus or train. 
  11. Planes. 101g of CO2 per km. So imagine flying from Edinburgh to London which is about 534km. That is 53,934 grams of CO2!

According to Transport Scotland:

  • The largest contributor to transport emissions is the road sector, accounting for 9.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2014 (73% of total transport emissions).
  • Emissions from maritime transport are estimated to be 1.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions, or 11% of total transport emissions.
  • Aviation emissions stood at 1.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2014, or 15% of the total transport emissions. Of this, international aviation accounted for 63% of all aviation emissions.
  • Rail accounted for 0.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions of transport emissions in 2014, or 1.3% of all transport emissions.
Source: Transport Scotland

Is Scotland going electric?

To help reduce carbon emissions from transport, the Scottish Government is electrifying the rain network, and has pledged to fully decarbonise all passenger rail by 2035. Electric busses are also being introduced into major cities, and the number of charging points for electric vehicles is being increased.

All sectors in Scotland will have to commit to making the change to electric transport if the ambitious target to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2045 is to be achieved. The Scottish Government has also set an interim target to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030. 

By continuing to burn fossil fuels in order to travel, greenhouse gases will continue to pollute our air quality and continue to impact on climate change.

Electric vehicles

Petrol and diesel powered vehicles are projected to be phased out by 2032. Scotland will look to encourage the use of ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). We are already buying more ULEVs than before with 2,546  new vehicles being registered in 2017 and a further 3,537 registered in 2018.

To help with this transition to electric vehicles 1,200 public accessible charging points have been installed throughout Scotland and more are planned. 

To help with this we can now get a grant from the UK Governement which has a repayment period of up to six years and can also help you set up your own home charge-point, as well as a £30,000 interest-free loan from the Scottish Goverment, to help purchase electric vehicles. 

If you are more of an active traveller, or would prefer to become one, then help is available for you too. 

The interest free loan, delivered by Energy Saving Trust on behalf of Transport Scotland, offers up to £6000 with a repayment period of up to 4 years. It can support up to two e-bikes capped at £3000 each, one family e-cargo bike capped at £6000 or one adaptive e-bike capped at £6000.