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Call to revolutionise commuting to cut carbon emissions

Words: Huw Morris
Cars and trains

Radically changing how people commute holds the key to huge reductions in the UK’s carbon emissions, according to an analysis of travel data.

Mobilityways, an organisation committed to helping businesses achieve zero-carbon commuting, said commuting accounts for 18 billion kg of CO2, amounting to 25 per cent of transport emissions and 5 per cent of total emissions. Its analysis reveals 42 per cent of commuters could walk or cycle, 46 per cent could use public transport, and 92 per cent have one or more colleagues living within one mile with whom they could share a lift to work.

The average commuter has over five people they could share a lift with within walking distance of their home. But census data for England shows that only 15 per cent of commuters currently walk or cycle, 18 per cent use public transport and just 10 per cent share a car with a co-worker. According to the data, 10 billion kilograms of CO2 could be saved if people commuted by walking, cycling, public transport or car-sharing. This is equivalent to London’s carbon emissions for almost four months. Mobilityways argues that the Department for Transport’s

Decarbonising Transport document, published in March, does not mention commuters or the importance of employer travel plans, which it describes as a missed opportunity. Moreover, current rules for the public sector and business reporting of greenhouse gas emissions do not consider commuting and business miles, it adds.

“Zero carbon pledges cannot be met without reducing emissions from transport – which means decarbonising the daily commute is critical,” said chief executive Ali Clabburn. “Our commuting habits have barely changed in 30 years, we know that there is vast latent potential for people to travel more sustainably when they need to get to their workplace. “Covid-19 is forcing businesses to re-examine their entire ways of working. As organisations overhaul their operations to manage social distancing and the health of their workforce, it’s vital that commuting is considered as part of this mix.”