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Lifestyle change more important than technical progress in cutting carbon from transport - Oxford Univ study

Thu 31 May 2018 | Back to news list

New research from Oxford University finds that changing our lifestyles and the way we travel could have as big, if not more of an impact on carbon dioxide emissions from transport than technical progress, including the adoption of electric vehicles.
 
Published in Energy Efficiency, the study uses Scotland as an example and suggests that radical lifestyle change can show quicker results than the gradual transition to electric vehicles and phasing out of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles.
 
Scotland has committed itself to reduce carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. For transport, this includes international aviation and shipping which makes the targets more difficult to achieve.
 
Led by Dr Christian Brand of the Environmental Change Institute and Transport Studies Unit, Oxford University, in collaboration with colleagues from the universities of Leeds and Loughborough, the paper explores how plausible changes in the way we travel might reduce energy use and emissions in Scotland over the next three decades.
 
Dr Brand said: "Our study explores how Scotland might achieve these targets in the transport sector.  We find that both lifestyle change - such as making fewer and shorter journeys, sharing existing journeys, or shifting to walking, cycling and clean public transport - and a comprehensive strategy around zero emission technologies are needed, but that they have limits to meeting our CO2 targets, in particular beyond 2030."
 
The findings suggest that, only through prioritisation of both demand (lifestyle, social and cultural change) and supply-side (new technology) transport solutions, might we have a chance of curbing carbon emissions in line with the United Nation’s 1.5C Climate Change Agreement. 
 
Traditionally, the authors suggest, governments have prioritised technology fixes and supply-side transport solutions to the carbon emission problem.  
 
Change will need to be led by consumers, policy makers and industry alike, they say.
 
'We need to look at how we can inspire and support consumer lifestyle changes - in travel patterns, mode and vehicle choice, vehicle occupancy - to be in with a chance of reducing our carbon emissions in line with legislated targets and travelling on the ‘Road to Zero’ faster, further and more flexible.' 
 
Note: The role of consumers in the low carbon transport revolution will be one of the central themes to be explored at the LowCVP's Annual Conference in Westminster, London on Thursday July 12. More information is on the LowCVP Conference page.

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