Why the United Kingdom’s decarbonization plan is just right, however now not nice

It’s not often that a government transport document leaves you gobsmacked. But there was one line in the foreword of the latest in this genre by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, that did just that. It reads:

[In the future] public transport and active travel (walking and cycling) will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.

That line makes Shapps the first British transport secretary in 20 years to acknowledge that car use will need to fall. The urgent need to decarbonize the transport sector is the obvious reason behind this sudden shift – transport is the UK’s most polluting sector, contributing 28% of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

The government’s recent consultation, entitled Decarbonising Transport, set out the challenge and highlighted some of the initiatives that are already underway to cut carbon from transport.