Why must carbon emissions from motor vehicles in Cambridge be reduced?

Climate change is one of the greatest challenge facing the world. Global heating is already having far-reaching consequences for the earth’s inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life. Action to bring down emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon emissions from transport, is essential.

The latest IPPC report says that choices on individual mobility have “the largest potential to reduce carbon footprints” and calls for prioritisation of car-free options. At COP27, UITP (the International Association of Public Transport) said that a “combination of decarbonised public transport, walking and cycling holds the key to many of the solutions needed to achieve our goals through a just transition.”

The local situation

Surface transport accounts for around 20% of carbon emissions in Cambridge city, 35% in Greater Cambridge and 44% in the wider Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region, so it’s a significant proportion. Most of those emissions come from cars. In fact, In Cambridgeshire, emissions from cars are 50% above the national average per capita.

In its Strategic Outline Business Case, the GCP predicts that the Sustainable Travel Zone scheme would cut the number of car journeys in Cambridge by 50%, saving 33,300 tonnes of CO2e in the first year and 1.28 million tonnes over a 60-year appraisal period.

In 2016 the UK signed the landmark Paris Agreement pledging to keep warming below 2oC and aim for 1.5oC. Cambridgeshire County Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and the transition to net zero is a top priority of the Joint Administration. The proposals for the Sustainable Travel Zone would help the County Council to meet the national target to reduce greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050, which is legally-binding. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate also made several recommendations on ways that our region could reduce emissions from transport in its 2021 report: the policy to reduce the car miles driven on our roads by 15% is part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s draft Local Transport and Connectivity Plan strategy which recently went to public consultation.

The proposals for a Sustainable Travel Zone include a large increase in bus services in the Greater Cambridge area and the Combined Authority has pledged to have an entirely electric bus network in the Cambridgeshire by 2030.

Cambridgeshire Sustainable Transport Alliance member Carbon Neutral Cambridge describe the proposals for a Sustainable Travel Zone as a “exciting opportunity to make our city fairer, healthier and lower carbon” and point out in their new Greater Cambridge Decarbonisation report that although transport emissions are decreasing in Cambridge city, a lot more progress is needed in South Cambridgeshire. The bus and cycling improvements (such as the Greenways and onward links) will be essential parts of the path to net zero.