We've written this guide to help you understand more about the section on transport in the Climate Action Plan for councils.

25 Feb 2020

Background information

Transport is the largest source of UK greenhouse gases, responsible for more than a third of emissions when international aviation and shipping emissions are included. The main reason for this is that the Department for Transport allowed emissions to continue to increase. But a failure by councils to address transport emissions has also contributed to this situation.

The goal

Councils must reduce air pollution to meet World Health Organisation levels, match European best practice in the use of buses, cycling and walking, and ensure all vehicles are zero emission.

What councils should do

Councils have a significant influence on transport emissions. They can invest in public transport, build segregated cycle routes and ensure new developments favour public transport and cycling above car use. Reformed local transport will also present communities with other benefits – such as more readily available and accessible transport, increased space for play, and a decrease in air pollution and its associated health impacts.

Friends of the Earth has identified a target for every council to increase the proportion of journeys by public transport, cycling and walking, dependent on their geography.

Points 20 to 28 in our Climate Action Plan for councils suggest councils should:

20. Enable the rapid shift to electric vehicles (EVs) by installing charging points.

  • Even if we reduce car use there will still be continued use of some cars and other vehicles. Installing electric vehicle chargers is important, especially for the many homes that don’t have a driveway to charge at home. The UK has far too few electric vehicle chargers and every council should aim for at least 1 per 1000 licensed cars in their area by 2030.

21. Prioritise transport investment into cycling, walking, trams and public transport.

22. Put in place Clean Air Zones, with charging if needed.

  • Councils are required to address areas with illegal levels of air pollution. One of the most effective ways to do this is to implement a Clean Air Zone which restricts the most polluting vehicles from entering the area. York City Council has introduced restrictions to limit the amount of buses that aren’t clean and electric. A number of cities have backed down from introducing charges for the most polluting vehicles because of opposition from car owners.

23. Reduce car use through measures such as promoting car-sharing, re-regulating bus services and constraining road space.

  • Warwickshire County Council has worked with major employers in the area and social enterprise Liftshare to encourage staff to share lifts when driving to work. This not only reduces pollution and the number of cars on the road but it can also make the daily commute more enjoyable.
  • Combined local authorities with elected powers can use powers under the Bus Services Act to regulate buses and ensure there is a timetable that links with other transport options and that all areas are well-served.

24. Require all taxis to be electric through licensing.

  • As taxis are regulated by the local council, they can be required to meet a certain standard to curb pollution. A number of councils are using licensing and financial support to encourage taxis to use hybrid or pure electric cars, for example in South Cambridgeshire, Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Leeds.

25. Deliver a rapid transition of the council’s own fleet to electric vehicles.

  • Chelmsford Borough Council is one of several local authorities that has introduced electric vehicles into its fleet. These are used by park staff and by other staff to attend meetings that are not accessible by public transport.

26. Require deliveries to the council to be by electric vehicles.

  • As large buyers of services and goods, councils can use their procurement policy to improve the environmental performance of private business. Not only can this mean buying quality products or services, but also requiring that these are delivered using electric vehicles.

27. Introduce differential charges for parking permits or other car related charges.

  • Parking charges can incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles by charging the most polluting vehicles more.
  • Nottingham City Council’s very successful workplace car parking levy has raised significant sums of money for public transport investment.

28. Reduce the need to own and use a car through managing the location and design of new developments in the local plan and improving provision of cycling, walking and public transport.

  • Local authorities have responsibilities for land-use planning. They need to use their power to plan for less car use by ensuring that any new homes are located close to public transport and have good quality cycle routes to shops and services.

Government action

Currently much of the Department for Transport’s strategies, plans and guidelines are side-lining climate change. These need to be completely rewritten.

Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and others are calling for the scrapping of the road building programme, and are calling for £14 billion a year to be allocated to walking, cycling, and public transport.

The Government should also bring forward the cut-off date for new petrol and diesel car, van, and motorbike sales to 2030. A ban on all petrol and diesel vehicles on the road after 2045 is needed, and any remaining vehicles should be scrapped.

Councils could also do more if they were granted stronger powers. The government should establish a new body to support councils in delivering excellent cycling and walking infrastructure and effective public transport management.

They should also give councils the powers they need to regulate bus services, allowing them to ensure a comprehensive network of frequent, reliable and affordable buses with a single ticket system.

Councils should also be able to charge a levy on parking at large retailers and leisure facilities.

Further reading

Case studies.

What are the proposed UK Clean Air Zones (CAZ)?

A net zero carbon budget for the whole transport sector.

Getting the Department for Transport on the right track.

How climate friendly is your area?

Segregated cycleways and e-bikes - the future of urban travel.

Transforming public transport.

Planning for less car use.