Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Mayor of London


  1.  The Mayor of London welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Environmental Audit Committee's Inquiry: Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transport. Each year approximately 42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted from the Greater London area. Emissions from transport activity accounts for around 21% or nine million tonnes of this total.

  2.  The Mayor recognises that climate change arising from increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is a serious issue affecting London's future. As a result, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and its functional bodies are committed to the development and implementation of a climate change mitigation strategy. With CO2 emissions a significant and growing problem, Transport for London (TfL) is aware of its responsibility to identify opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions directly attributable to it's operation of the public transport network, as well as pursuing initiatives that will reduce emissions from the broader transport sector in the capital.

  3.  The Mayor also recognises that CO2 is not the only pollutant which contributes to climate change, and it is necessary to consider other pollutants when addressing climate change. Defra's Air Quality Expert Group's "Air Quality and Climate Change" draft report has highlighted that black carbon particulate matter (including diesel vehicles emissions) as contributing to climate change.

  4.  The GLA is currently developing a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy to identify the impacts and recommend key actions to help London and Londoners prepare for inevitable climate change. This will support existing Mayor's Air Quality and Transport Strategy.


    —    What progress the DfT is making against key carbon reduction targets or forecasts included in the Ten Year Plan (2000), the Climate Change Strategy (2000), the 2004 Transport White Paper, the 2004 PSA, Powering Future Vehicles (2004), and other documents.


  5.  The UK's general CO2 reduction target of 20% from the 1990 baseline by 2010 and longer term aspiration of a 60% reduction from 2000 levels by 2050 provide a degree of focus to the DfT's efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from transport. It is generally accepted that transport CO2 emissions will rise over the years to 2010 as population and per capita trip growth offsets (and most likely exceeds) improvements in energy efficiency. Recognising this and the relationship between population density, transport modal split and CO2 emissions, the Mayor and TfL are in the process of developing transport sector specific targets. These targets will guide the development of reduction strategies in the short (2010), medium (2015-25) and long term (2050). It may prove valuable for the DfT to develop similar transport targets for regions and the UK as a whole.

  6.  It is important to note the Government's objective to "put climate change at the heart of its work" does not necessarily directly fit with carbon reduction targets. Other pollutants contribute to climate change, this includes well-known climate change gases, such as methane, NO2 and ozone and lesser known global pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10) from diesel vehicles (as highlighted in Defra's Air Quality Expert Group's recent report).


  7.  In its Ten Year Plan (2000), the DfT highlighted a variety of London-specific transport outcomes and targets. Many of these targets relate to the promotion of public transport, which in most cases will serve to reduce overall CO2 emissions. There are also targets relating directly to reductions in road traffic, by far the largest contributor to transport CO2 emissions in London, accounting for more than 80% of emissions. TfL and the GLA, working in conjunction with DfT, have made considerable progress towards many of these objectives (described in §6.73). Examples include:

Bus passengers

    —    Target: a 50% increase in the number of bus passengers entering central London and across the whole network.

    —  Progress: since 2000, the number of people entering central London by bus during the morning peak has grown by 59%. The total number of bus trips taking place across all of London has increased by 36% over the same period (source: London Travel report 2005).

Bus journey times

    —    Target: a 10% reduction in average bus journey times, with larger reductions in key corridors, plus significant improvements in reliability, with long unscheduled waits largely eliminated.

    —  Progress: average waiting times for high frequency bus services have decreased by 18% since 2000, with average excess wait times reducing by 50% over the same period (source: London Travel report 2005).

Road traffic

    —    Target: a possible 10%-15% reduction in road traffic in central London as a result of the Congestion Charging Scheme.

    —  Progress: since its introduction in February 2003, the central London Congestion Charging Scheme has resulted in a reduction in the total volume of traffic entering the zone during charging hours of 18%.

  8.  In addition to these specific examples, TfL and the GLA are in the midst of implementing a five year, £10 billion major investment programme that will see major improvements to the capacity and quality of Underground services, relief of localised traffic congestion, expansion of the existing Congestion Charging Zone, extension of the Docklands Light Railway and improvements to other commuter rail services. Considerable investment is also directed to a travel demand management programme, to encourage mode shift through school, workplace and personalised travel plans.


  9.  In its Powering Future Vehicles paper, the DfT targeted that by 2012, 10% of all new car sales will be cars emitting less than 100g/km. Achieving this target would seem very ambitious given that in 2004 only 3% of new cars had tailpipe emissions of 120g/km, with only a fraction of these achieving less than 100g/km. However, the range of low carbon vehicles available to consumers is expanding rapidly and it may be possible to dramatically increase the proportion of new cars that are low carbon in the next few years. Innovative mechanisms must be explored to promote consumers to purchase these vehicles in preference to more polluting alternatives. Subject to testing and pricing, options could include cash incentives or preferential finance for purchasers of low carbon cars, significant tax increases for vehicles emitting CO2 over a threshold limit, favourable treatment by existing and future road user charging schemes and parking restrictions, general advertising campaigns to highlight environmental and operating cost benefits of purchasing low carbon vehicles.

  10.  It is vital that the promoted vehicles mitigate climate change, rather than exhaust CO2 at the expense of life cycle CO2 or other environmental impacts. Defra's Air Quality Expert Group's "Air Quality and Climate Change" draft report highlighted that the climate change benefits of diesel over petrol are compromised if a full analysis is made, which takes account of various issues, including increased CO2 emissions at refineries and the contribution of diesel PM.

  11.  In addition, it is vital that when identifying "low-carbon" vehicles, the well to wheel CO2 emissions are considered. For example, refinery emissions of CO2 have increased disproportionately due to increasing diesel consumption and the consequent fuel compositional requirements.

  12.  The Power Future Vehicles paper also targets that approximately 20% of buses joining the fleet annually will be low carbon. TfL is already trialling diesel hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell buses in London. Once operational robustness is verified, preferential purchase of low carbon buses to replace existing vehicles or to expand the fleet will be dependent on the provision of sufficient funding to cover any cost premium. TfL expects the bulk of these low carbon buses in the short term to be diesel hybrids, but has also begun work with the London Hydrogen Partnership on their London Hydrogen Transport Programme. This requires London to deliver 10-12 buses, and a range of other vehicles, over the next 5 years, and procurement of these buses has already begun. The DfT should look to explore ways of improving the affordability of these buses.

  13.  In its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation feasibility report, the DfT suggests that 5% of the UK's road transport fuel requirements be supplied by biofuels by 2010. With biofuels accounting for only 0.25% of road fuel sales at present, this target appears very challenging. The GLA and TfL believe that further development of the UK's biofuel resources should continue to be explored, but should also take into account any dis-benefits associated with the production and use of these fuels (e.g, there is some suggestion that combustion of biofuels may result in increased emissions of NOx compounds and the impacts of biofuel feedstock production).

    —    Whether the DfT's carbon reduction target is underpinned by a coherent strategy stretching across the department's entire range of activities;

  14.  The DfT's strategy to reduce CO2 emissions appears logical and employs a portfolio approach to confront this growing problem. It addresses the major source of emissions from the sector, road transport, primarily through promotion new technologies (eg, low carbon vehicles) and fuel sources (eg, biofuels and hydrogen). It also advocates increased investment in public transport to improve both capacity and the quality of services. Other aspects of the strategy consider freight and aviation.

  15.  Whilst technological advancements offer the prospect of greatly reduced energy consumption in the future, the adoption of these technologies in the short to medium term will be largely dependent on their commercial viability. With global emissions of CO2 escalating rapidly as developing nations become more industrialised the UK cannot afford to wait for the market driven take-up of these technologies. Utilisation of both "carrot" and "stick" policies tools will be required to increase both the rate and depth of penetration of low carbon technologies.

  16.  In addition to these measures, a greater focus on demand-side measures is critical to minimise emissions in the short term. Encouragement of walking and cycling, car clubs, development and implementation of work, school and personalised travel plans, and exploration of technology-enabled solutions such as teleworking; must be promoted along with the prudent application of harder demand management measures such as road user charging. TfL has expanded it's travel demand management capability and the budget to deliver mode change will increase from £13.9 million in 2005-06 to £30 million in 2007-08.

    —    Whether the current balance of expenditure between the DfT's objectives (as revealed in its 2005 departmental report, Annex A) adequately reflects the environmental challenges it faces (see note 3);

  17.  Measurement of spending on specific transport objectives, such as the environment, is very difficult. Most transport initiatives seek to address multiple objectives. For example how does one classify spending on a new articulated, wheelchair accessible, diesel hybrid bus? It provides additional capacity, whilst also improving reliability by reducing dwell times at stops. Such a bus also provides mobility-impaired people with greater access to community services and has the benefit of reduced CO2, particulate and NOx emissions. It is impossible to accurately allocate costs across these distinctly different objectives. As a result, reporting processes attempting to quantify spending on environmental issues tend to only capture those projects where 80-100% of the derived benefit is environmental in nature. As a consequence, spending on the environment is under reported.

  18.  Realisation of the three DfT PSA objectives not relating specifically to the environment will also help to reduce transport-related CO2 emissions. The "provision of efficient and reliable interregional transport systems" (objective 1) and "improvements to the accessibility, punctuality and reliability of local and regional transport systems" focussing on "increased use of public transport" (objective 2) will both help to improve the relative attractiveness of public transport options. Modal shift away from private transport achieved as a result of efforts to meet objectives 1 and 2 will also help to reduce overall CO2 emissions from the transport sector. The department's fourth objective to "improve cost- effectiveness" will ensure that funding is available and prioritised for those projects from which greatest benefit will be derived. Due to the interrelated nature of the objectives, it is impossible to tell with any certainty if the DfT's planned expenditure accurately reflects the magnitude of the environmental challenge it faces.

    —    What realistically the DfT could achieve by 2010 and 2020 in terms of reducing transport-related carbon emissions, and the role that demand management should play in doing so;

  19.  In the years to 2010, take-up of low carbon vehicles and biofuels are unlikely to have any tangible effect on overall emissions from the transport sector. Travel demand management, modal shift and other behavioural changes offer the only real opportunities to significantly reduce emissions during this timeframe. If such measures are exploited to the full, it may be possible to constrain the anticipated growth in transport related emissions.

  20.  However, during the decade following 2010, low carbon vehicles, together with the emergence of alternative fuel sources, provide an opportunity to reduce emissions from current levels. To ensure that maximum benefit is achieved as soon as possible, the DfT should start its promotion of these technologies amongst the general public now. As recognised in its third annual report on the Powering Future Vehicles Strategy, uptake of these vehicles will be initially slow, so advocating the benefits of these vehicles now will hopefully bring forward emission savings by several years.

    —    What specific steps the department should now take to reduce road transport carbon emissions and congestion over the next decade.

  21.  Road user charging has proven to be very successful in London. Traffic within the congestion charging zone during charging hours has decreased by 18% since implementation of the scheme, resulting in a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions of about 20%. The DfT should continue to investigate the potential benefits of a national road user charging scheme.

  22.  Develop targeted advertising campaigns to promote public awareness of travel management options available locally to reduce traffic levels (particularly school and workplace travel plans, walking and cycling initiatives) and to educate drivers on ways to carry out their travel in as sustainable a manner as possible (eg, fuel economy benefits of smooth acceleration and braking, driving at the speed limit).

  23.  Accelerate the market for low carbon vehicles and alternative fuel sources, starting with raising awareness amongst the general public now, and driving the development of affordable, practical vehicles.

  24.  Continue, if not increase its investment in public transport schemes, as these will continue to be more energy efficient and less polluting from a passenger km perspective for the foreseeable future. For example, incremental investment in the existing commuter rail network in London is capable of achieving substantial increases in public transport capacity and quality at reasonable cost. This type of investment is critical to maintaining sustainable economic growth in the capital. The DfT must also commit itself to the funding of large scale projects that will assure the long term ability to provide sustainable transport options (eg, Crossrail).

  25.  Road freight accounts for about 25% of all transport CO2 emissions. Investment is required in the development of low carbon alternatives for both LGV and HGV applications, as well as promoting the uptake of these vehicles once available. Improving the energy efficiency of the freight sector must be a priority. Initiatives to be explored should include driver education, consolidation of distribution centres, promotion of technologies to assist with journey planning and trip consolidation. Such recommendations will integrated into TfL's freight strategy—the London Freight Plan (LFP)—currently under development.

  26.  The Government should support national, regional and local policies to reduce climate change pollutants other than CO2. This includes diesel exhaust PM10 and associated policies, including the London Low Emission Zone and other air quality and transport initiatives.

  In relation to the Department's low carbon vehicle strategy, Powering Future Vehicles, the Committee is also specifically interested in: whether the targets set out in the Powering Future Vehicles strategy were adequate and what progress has been made against them since 2002; and what organisations and funding sources are involved, whether there is adequate coordination between them, and whether the overall funding available and spent in support of the strategy is adequate in view of the environmental challenges DfT is facing.

  27.  On targets, please see response to first inquiry, "technology-related targets".

  28.  There is little certainty about the remit, availability and coordination between current funding opportunities to support DfT's low carbon vehicle strategy, Powering Future Vehicles, and together they fall very short of the level of funding required. More specifically:

    —    The transport arm of the Energy Saving Trust have provided grants for cleaner and low carbon vehicles and technologies, but these were withdrawn at very short notice, causing severe problems for technology providers, especially SMEs and the cleaner vehicle market. New funding for alternative fuel infrastructure is welcome, but the level of support available should be increased.

    —    Although the DTI's recent announcement on its intention to provide funding to demonstrate hydrogen and fuel cell technology was welcome, it is unclear when this funding will be available. Furthermore the level of support proposed will be inadequate to achieving the real shift in progress that the UK needs in this area to reduce the gap with the global leaders. We would welcome clarity on how this funding and the DfT's planned research funding for hydrogen infrastructures work together, and how it may feed into support for stationary power initiatives offered by DEFRA and the Carbon Trust.

February 2006

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