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Britain’s top earners emit 22 times more greenhouse gases in the transport sector

Who is responsible for the most emissions from public transport?

Climate change is becoming increasingly intense. Globally, we are not on track to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius – and we need to cut emissions ‘fast and deeply’ if we want to limit them to 2 degrees Celsius.

Every fraction of a degree counts. For example, at a warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, about 14% of the Earth’s population will be exposed to severe heat waves at least once every five years. With a warming of 2 degrees, that number rises to 37%.

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Transport is responsible for about a fifth of global CO2 emissions. But not everyone is equally responsible for this pollution. Half of all transport emissions in Britain come from just one in five people (15%) and the worst polluting 10% of the population are responsible for four-tenths (42%) of all transport emissions.

The IPPR research shows that people with an income of more than £100,000 travel at least double the distance each year than those earning less than £30,000.

Men are more likely to be high emitters than women, representing 68% of the very affluent group with unlimited mobility. Meanwhile, people from more deprived neighborhoods travel significantly less and emit fewer greenhouse gases than people from the least deprived.

The net-zero transition is an opportunity to make transportation fairer for everyone and reduce mobility inequality by helping people who can’t afford to own a car or fly.

But the government has failed to invest in key public transport services. Bus travel outside London has plummeted over the past 15 years, according to research published last year, with some areas seeing “staggering falls” of up to 80%. Train and metro strikes – launched by unions over “inadequate” pay and working conditions – have closed large parts of the rail network in recent years.

People on lower incomes are suffering from the government’s failure to invest in public transport, says Stephen Frost, lead researcher at IPPR.

“By putting people at the heart of our approach to reducing the UK’s climate impact, we are showing who is best placed to reduce their emissions at the pace they need and how this can help tackle the underlying unfairness in who the transport system is currently working.” he insisted.

“Now is not the time to slow down our efforts to reach net zero; this only increases existing inequality in transportation. The next UK government must pick up the pace by delivering a credible, fair and people-centred plan for more sustainable travel.”

The most important step is to reduce frequent flying with fees and private jet taxes. However, Rishi Sunak promised an end to ‘heavy-handed’ aviation taxes last year. This is not good enough, the IPPR report suggests.

“The government’s current laissez-faire approach to decarbonizing aviation is unsustainable for a just transition to net zero emissions,” the authors point out.

“Emissions cannot be reduced in line with Britain’s legally binding climate commitments for 2030 and 2035 without taking action to reduce the emissions associated with frequent flying,” the report points out. “Failure to do this will place the burden of transition on the shoulders of those who have the least responsibility for fueling the climate crisis.”

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