Could Driving Less Really Help the Environment?
As a planet, we are facing the most important issue of our time, climate change. The impacts of greenhouse gas pollution have been known to the scientific community for decades, but it is only recently – and in the wake of disastrous weather events beginning to occur in the West – that nations are beginning to take the threat of climate extinction seriously.
Transport has been earmarked as a leading pollutive factor, and many activists have called on the public to reduce their reliance on private transport. But will driving less positively impact climate change?
The Carbon Footprint of Private Transport
While it is largely incumbent on industry to positively impact national trends on greenhouse gas pollution, there are some areas that require individual cooperation, fielded by government leadership. The pollutive impacts of private transport are increasingly difficult to ignore, with a wealth of data and evidence illustrating just how significant cars are to the current climate crisis.
According to information presented by the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the transport sector is the single largest in the UK for greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs); even in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, transport accounted for nearly a quarter of all emissions across the nation. Further, domestic transport (e.g.: household car usage) was identified as responsible for 99 million tonnes of CO2 release in the same period. This number, though high, was a significant reduction from years prior.
In the knowledge of these few statistics alone, it is hard to argue that a reduction in reliance on cars would have anything but positive results for climate change. But there are also tangible benefits to local environments that greatly incentivize reduced driving on individual and community levels.
The internal combustion engine does not only produce greenhouse gases but also noxious fumes containing harmful carbon particulates. These fumes choke natural ecosystems and have been directly linked to dramatically increased levels of risk for urban citizens and even their unborn children.
Changing Habits and Government Investment
On a personal level, reducing reliance on private transport can be easily achieved – and has the most marked effect on a household’s carbon footprint in the process. Many councils are investing in better cycling infrastructure, from the introduction of new cycle pathways to the introduction of urban and suburban bike hire schemes.
Households could use these factors in their decision-making, and more reliably rely on public transport for most journeys while retaining their car for essential longer-distance trips. Doing this could also be a money-saver, as only temporary car insurance would be needed for a period of time in which the car was in use.
A New Automotive Age
Legislatively speaking, there is an end to private transport as we know it in sight. With the pressure on to make meaningful environmentally sound changes on a national level, the government’s net zero strategy included a commitment to ban the sale of newly-built fossil-fuelled vehicles in 2030.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sought to delay this, but automotive manufacturers are already embracing a new future in the roll-out of less pollutive electric vehicles.