20% cut in Scotland's car traffic planned to help meet 2030 climate targets

The Scottish Government has published its updated Climate Change Plan which contains new policies aimed at reducing emissions from transport, including an eye-catching new target to cut car kilometres by 20 percent by 2030.

Cycling UK in Scotland sent its views on the Climate Change Plan update to the Scottish Parliament's Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (RECC) on 12 January 2021. The response can be viewed on the RECC webpage or via the link at the end of this page. 

Original article from Thursday, 17 December 2020 follows.

The Scottish Government has published its updated Climate Change Plan which sets out the measures it will take to meet Scotland’s 2030 climate target. The transport sector is the largest contributor of climate emissions in Scotland, accounting for 36% of all emissions. Since a baseline was set in 1990 emissions from transport have not decreased whilst sectors such as energy generation have embraced decarbonisation.

The updated Climate Change Plan includes a raft of new policies aimed at reducing emissions from transport, including an eye-catching new commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030 in order to address the ‘over-reliance on cars’. Government has promised to publish a route-map to meet the 20% reduction next year.

The Climate Change Plan also brings forward to 2030 the Scottish Government’s commitment to phase out the need for new fossil fuel cars and vans.

The document outlines the measures it will put in place to give people an alternative to car driving and, as it says, make sustainable transport an ‘instinctive first choice’. This includes the 2020 Programme for Government commitment to spend £500m on active travel over the next 5 years, which Cycling UK described as insufficient.

A new proposal in the plan is a pledge to spend £50m on Active Freeways - segregated active travel routes on main travel corridors connecting communities and places. The first of these is promised for 2025.

Jim Densham, Cycling UK’s Campaigns and Policy Manager in Scotland said:

"People know that cycling is a low-carbon travel option that can help them reduce their own carbon footprint. It is, therefore, good to see commitments in this plan which will make cycling an easier and attractive option for many more people in Scotland.

"We are especially encouraged that government has committed to achieving a 20% cut in car traffic by 2030 because this will make streets less busy and make cycling and walking safer and more enjoyable. With over half (54%) of journeys in Scotland under 5km and a quarter of journeys under 1km done by car, there is huge scope for people to take more everyday short journeys on foot or by pedal cycle.

"Decarbonising transport is important but simply replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with electric versions would be a failure. Instead, the new target to cut car traffic has the potential to start reducing levels of road congestion and encourage people to be more physically active and healthy, as well as helping to meet the 2030 climate target.

"Government has much to do to flesh out these plans and provide greater detail, for example to explain how many miles of new Active Freeways are planned. We call on MSPs to scrutinise the Government’s proposals for transport and ensure that this plan leads to the transformative change needed in how we live and travel in Scotland and for the planet we depend on."

Four Scottish Parliamentary Committees will scrutinise the Climate Change Plan update in the new year. The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee is seeking views on the transport related elements of the plan – the deadline for submissions is 12 January 2021.