As we face a climate emergency, transport continues to be Scotland’s biggest emitting sector, accounting for 35.6% of emissions in 2018.
There are three main ways in which change in transport can be delivered:
- modal switch from the private car to walking, cycling and public transport – like bus!
- switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy such as electricity
- lifestyle changes that reduce the need for people to use transport.
The Challenges Ahead
In the UK government’s fifth carbon budget, drawn up by the Committee on Climate Change, the CCC noted that reducing car distance travelled across the UK by 10% could lower emissions by six MtCO2 by 2030. In the sixth Carbon Budget, their recommended pathway requires a 78% reduction in UK territorial emissions between 1990 and 2035. The CCC’s recommendations assume that 9% of car miles can be reduced (e.g. through increased home-working) or shifted to lower-carbon modes (such as walking, cycling and public transport) by 2035, increasing to 17% by 2050.
The Scottish Government has set its own demanding targets, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 75% of 1990 levels by 2030, 90% by 2040 and net-zero by 2045. In its 2018-2032 Climate Change Plan, published in December 2020, the Government committed, inter alia, to policies which would reduce kilometres travelled by private car by 20% and promised investment worth £120m in zero emission buses between 2021 and 2026 as well as £500 million to prioritise buses.
The Bus Already Greener
The bus is already a “green” form of transport. In Scotland, emissions in terms of the CO2e figure per passenger kilometre in Scotland is around 150g per passenger km. This compares with an average of 171g for a medium diesel car or 192g for a medium petrol car, 103g for a motorcycle, and 36.9g for rail services and 29.9g for light rail. Getting more people onto buses would reduce emissions per passenger km even further. And we can make the emissions from buses even lower or even zero.
The Story So Far
The bus industry has a good story to tell on reducing carbon emissions over the last 30 years. According to Transport Scotland, emissions from buses and coaches have shown a reduction since of almost 31% since the 1990 baseline. In 2018, emissions from the bus and coach network fell to 0.4 MtCO2e, a 30.6% decrease. Compared with the previous year, bus emissions fell by 0.1 MtCO2e in 2018, a decrease of 14.1%.
The UK bus industry and Scotland’s bus manufacturing industry are rapidly adopting new low-emission (LEB) and zero-emission buses (ZEB) designed to reduce emissions even further – including for the iconic fleet for COP26 in Glasgow. Battery-driven electric buses made in Scotland are in service across the UK and the world’s first ever hydrogen-powered double deck bus, entered service in Aberdeen in 2020.
Bus – just transition in action!
The Scottish Green Bus Fund was founded in 2011 and sought bids in annual rounds to aid operators to introduce low-emission buses into Scotland’s 4,400-strong fleet. A new version of the fund, Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme (SULEBs), was launched in 2020. Now there is also the Zero Emission Bus fund.
There is much more work to do. More than a quarter of the fleet now conforms with the stringent Euro VI diesel standards, with very low emissions of NOx and particulates. However, a significant part of the fleet (16.5%) was Euro III or earlier, with much higher levels of pollution. A programme of retro-fitting earlier vehicles to Euro VI standards is under way, designed to deliver short-term air quality benefits.
Delivering on targets
In 2019, cars, vans and taxis travelled some 45 billion kilometres, estimated to constitute around 63 billion passenger kilometres. So, a 20% reduction would see cuts of 9 billion kilometres or 12.5 billion passenger kilometres. In order to hit the 20% overall target, car travel in urban areas may need to be reduced by up to a half.
Bus will be needed to deliver on that. Each 1% of car demand switched to bus would represent a 23.7% increase in bus travel, that would be 90 million extra passenger journeys a year. This would improve services and create jobs.
Scotland can be bold on bus
Scotland manufactures zero and low emission buses; global and family companies are based in Scotland and while reducing emissions through modal shift and decarbonisation – improving and increasing bus use and bus services has many benefits. Investing in bus is investing in a fairer, more accessible and affordable transport system; improving connectivity, creating jobs; improving public health and reducing major disease, protecting the NHS – while tackling the Climate Emergency.
Bus is a climate solution that is on our streets now. Just transition in action, enabling modal shift and increasingly powered by clean green electricity too. Bus must be at the heart of a just, green recovery.