20% reduction in car km by 2030

Transport is Scotland’s biggest contributor to climate change, emitting over a quarter of all of our greenhouse gas emissions. Within this, the largest share of transport emissions comes from cars, accounting for 38%. The predominance of private car use, therefore cannot be overlooked. Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan update in 2020 included a world-leading commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030 (against a 2019 baseline). By rethinking how we use our cars and reducing the number of daily journeys we take, we can help make Scotland a healthier, fairer, greener place to live and significantly contribute towards Scotland reaching net zero.

The following graphic shows an illustrated pie chart of greenhouse gas emissions by transport  mode in Scotland in 2020. Total emissions were 10.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, with cars having the highest proportion of emissions at 38.2%, followed by HGV and vans combines at 28.3%. Aviation is at 6.5% and shipping at 19.8% in 2020. The remainder 7.2% is from other transport types.

Share of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by mode in 2020 - as described in text above

The need for change

Our National Transport Strategy (NTS2) outlines the need to reduce travel by unsustainable modes and sets out the sustainable travel hierarchy, where walking, wheeling and cycling are the preferred modes for shorter journeys. The UKCCC’s latest Sixth Carbon Budget report also acknowledges need for car use reduction, and the important benefits, both for the climate as well as for the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s citizens.

Research commissioned by Transport Scotland and undertaken by Element Energy, looked at options available to meet Scotland’s statutory climate targets. The report concludes that technology alone will be insufficient to meet out net zero target by 2045 and that we need to reduce the use of private vehicles as well as supporting a transition to lower emission vehicles, for those journeys where private car is still required.

Our national commitment to reduce car use deliberately includes all types of car, including electric vehicles, in recognition of the wider benefits of a society less-dominated by the movement and storage of private vehicles. These benefits include reduced road danger; reduced air and noise pollution; increased opportunity for physical activity through active travel; reduced community severance; reduced congestion; and the revitalisation of local highstreets, town centres and communities as places for people not vehicles. Reducing overall car use is particularly important in light of our commitment to  a Just Transition to net zero emissions, recognising that the negative impacts of car use fall disproportionately on some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society, despite the fact that these groups are less likely to have access to private vehicles. We are however committed to maintain access by car for those who need it, such as though who use cars as a mobility aid.

A holistic behaviour change approach - The ask

On 13 January 2022, we published our route map to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in car kilometres by 2030, which was developed in partnership with CoSLA- The Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities.

The route map makes use of behavioural change theory and identifies four sustainable travel behaviours for everyone in Scotland to consider each time we plan a journey, setting out a range of transport and non-transport interventions that will help them to adopt these behaviours.

These behaviours are:

  • make use of online options, where appropriate, to reduce the need to travel
  • choose local destinations to reduce the distance travelled
  • switch to walk, wheel, cycle or public transport where possible
  • combine a trip or share a journey to reduce the number of individual car trips made, if a car remains the only feasible option.

Just transition considerations run through the route map and we do recognise that different behaviours will be more feasible in different geographical locations and for individuals with different needs. This is a national ambition and does not mean car use in rural and remote areas, and car use by those who’s circumstances limit their travel options, is expected to drop at the same rate.

Interventions to support change

Given that transport is a derived demand, this reduction will require cross-sectoral effort which goes beyond transport and will need all parties to use the levers they have at their disposal.

The route map contains over 30 interventions, with a number of key interventions, to support people to adopt one or more of the sustainable travel behaviours outlined in the graphic below. The route map also includes a commitment to conduct further research in equitable demand management measure and publish a Demand Management Framework by 2025.

Reducing car use for a healthier, fairer, and greener Scotland. Detail in the graphic is described im more detail at the link below0

Interventions referred to in the graphic above are described in more detail in our Route map publication.

Just transition

The route map is underpinned by our commitment to a just transition to zero greenhouse gas emissions, creating benefits and opportunities equally for people across Scotland.

Ensuring more people choose active and sustainable travel will not only result in fewer emissions, but can also promote healthier lifestyles and better equality of access to transport.

The status quo is unfair. For people on the lowest incomes, 60% have no access to a car. Of those with a long-term health problem or disability, the figure is 46%. Younger and older people, women and certain minority ethnic groups are also less likely to have access to a car, including in rural areas. The figures are even starker for multiple car households.  71% of households in the highest income brackets (over £50,000) have access to two or more cars; for those in the lowest income bracket (under £10,000) the figure is 8%.

People in low income households are more likely to travel by bus, while those in higher income households are more likely to travel by car, a trend that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Therefore the resurgence of a healthy bus network in our recovery from COVID-19 is vital to securing a just transition and delivering our vision for a sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system. Helping to give people access to bikes and e-bikes, particularly in areas of multiple deprivation, can drive equality and promote physical activity.

We acknowledge that reducing private car use will be more challenging for people in who live in rural areas or who currently have no other affordable option. As such the framework of sustainable travel behaviours is designed to be applicable in both rural and urban settings as well as for those with a variety of transport mobility needs. The aim is to empower people to choose an option that fits their circumstances and trip-purpose needs. Ensuring that people can reduce their need to travel by car whilst still having affordable access to employment, goods and services will be key to achieving this outcome without having a detrimental effect on equality.

We will continue to consider a range of issues in relation to the route map, such as the availability of public transport alternatives, low income and inequality implications, and geographical considerations, through the on-going consultation and impact assessment process. The route map consultation is closed, and we are currently analysing the valuable feedback given. Our programme of engagement, with a wide range of groups and networks across Scotland however, continues as we implement the measures outlines, and consider the next steps.

The benefits

The negative impacts of an over reliance on the car, including road traffic congestion, are experienced by everyone, regardless of whether they are able to enjoy what are considered as benefits of car use.

Not only will reducing car use by 20% by 2030 have a significant impact on emission reduction (0.7-0.9 mt by 2030), a society less reliant on cars will  contribute to improved public health, through increasing opportunities for active travel. As well as,  helping to improve air quality and safety – issues that disproportionally impact on the less fortunate in our society.

Towns and cities will have more space available to be reallocated to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, helping create more inclusive and attractive public spaces. Favouring more sustainable transport can also promote social inclusion, particularly for households for which the cost of car ownership and use acts as a barrier to accessing employment, education and key services.

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