‘Substantial’ behaviour change is still required on car travel in Scotland, according to a new report

‘Substantial’ behaviour change is still required on car travel and travel choices and technological behaviour is needed to help, according to a new report published by Transport Scotland.

Transport Scotland’s report from the low carbon consultancy Element Energy looks at decarbonising the transport sector and it provides an independent assessment of what policy outcomes are required in order for the transport sector to make the transition to net zero.

The report is clear that transformational change in individual and business behaviour and travel choices will be required alongside the pursuit of continued technological innovation. At the same time, the report is guided by the principle of a just transition, meaning that everyone has a role to play and no one can be left behind in the fair transition to a net zero society. The proposed recommendations contained within the report reflect that approach. Key highlights include:

  • A clear message that substantial behaviour change is required on car travel, irrespective of whether cars are electric or otherwise, underpinning the Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.
  • Findings which align with the government policy in areas such as ending the sale of fossil fuel cars and vans by 2030, decarbonising the rail network by 2035, and ending the sale of fossil fuel heavy vehicles by 2035.
  • Tensions in policy approaches, such as aviation, where the report concludes a significant reduction in demand is needed.
  • A recommendation that vehicle demand caused by the decreasing cost of electric fuels must be mitigated through policy, such as road user charging; that around 25% of freight goods must be moved by road must be shifted to rail and ships by 2030; and ending the sale of fossil fuel powered ships with retrofitting of existing ship powertrains from the early to mid-2030s.

Transport Minister Graeme Dey provided a statement Scottish Parliament on the publication of the report and updated on what the Scottish Government is already doing to support a shift to active, sustainable and low carbon transport. Mr Dey said:

 “The Programme for Government sets out how we will take Scotland on a green transport revolution and in a way delivers a fairer and healthier Scotland. The report we have commissioned from Element Energy sets out what that future could look like, and what policy outcomes are required to support that vision.

“Technology offers us many solutions, and we’re making good progress, but the report is clear that transformational change in travel behaviour is required. The role of government, therefore, is to make sustainable travel choices easier, and our Programme for Government commitments support just that.

“Scotland has made a world-leading commitment to reduce car kilometres travelled nationally by 20% by 2030. We’re supporting this through free bus travel for under 22’s, over half a billion pounds in bus priority infrastructure and a near tripling of the active travel budget to 10% of what we spend on transport by the end of this parliament. Later this year, we will publish a route-map outlining further measures to achieve this reduction target, assuming the COVID-19 pandemic has moved to a phase to allow this.

“We are aware that we need disincentivise car use to encourage people to make more sustainable choices. But the most direct levers here – fuel duty and vehicle excise duty – are reserved. So the UK Government must play its part and use all the levers and powers it has to support us in this endeavour.

“With COP26 just over a month away, this report makes clear the scale of the challenge ahead of us.  We are committed to cutting emissions in transport at an unprecedented pace, and transforming how we all get around in the future.”

Read the full publication by Element Energy

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