How can researchers respond to reduced climate targets?

Professor Greg Marsden explores the reasons for and solutions to the reduced targets for climate change mitigation in the UK transport sector.

While the UK was one of the earliest countries to publish a Climate Change Act, it is not meeting its goals. Areas including the power sector have seen a reduction in carbon emissions; however, surface transport has not.

Despite this, the government has reduced its climate change mitigation targets.

Professor Marsden (Institute for Transport Studies) and Professor Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford) co-authored a commentary about the issue, now published in Nature.

They used the surface transport sector as a case study to explore the issues of politicians reducing or postponing the targets for carbon emissions reduction. 

Transport’s emission reductions have stalled

Transport is the biggest contributor to the country’s carbon emissions at 26%. Its emissions didn’t fall between 1990 and 2019. 

In recent years, politicians and members of the public have pushed back against climate measures in the transport sector like 15-minute cities and low emissions zones. 

The paper explores issues of framing, policy change and politics, to understand how the UK can make better progress. 

It explores the capacity of politics and academia to improve policies, deliver practical solutions and increase public engagement with them.

Professor Marsden said: “The incoming government will have a mountain to climb on decarbonising transport and it will need to start a very different conversation with the public and make very different spending and tax decisions if we are to turn a corner.” 

Read ‘Planning to fail? How science can respond to reduced climate mitigation ambition’ in Nature: Sustainable Mobility and Transport.