Why Transport Emissions Matter


Domestic transport is responsible for the largest portion of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.


Trends in emissions


Until recently, energy supply was Scotland’s largest source of emissions. However, due to a switch from fossil fuels towards renewable energy generation, these emissions have fallen sharply in recent years. In comparison, transport emissions have not declined substantially, so have taken over as our largest source of emissions. The below graph from the most recent Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions publication illustrates this.



Data from Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2020
Image: Main Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Scotland, 1990 to 2020. Values in MtCO2e.


The impact of Covid-19


The noticeable fall in domestic transport emissions from 2019 to 2020 can be attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown. Despite this, domestic transport still accounted for almost 24% of emissions in 2020. Judging by the trends, a return to pre-pandemic levels seems likely – in 2019, the figure for domestic transport was over 25%.


Road transport is the key player


In terms of transport modes, road transport has the largest share. The most recent figures available through the Carbon Account for Transport issued in 2020 show cars contributing most emissions in 2018. Although road vehicles have become more fuel efficient, this has been offset significantly by an increase in miles travelled. Cars are also getting heavier, with more SUVs now on the roads. This means transport emissions are not decreasing.


According to the National Transport Strategy, over 34% of journeys under 1km are made by car (either as a driver or a passenger). This rises to over 50% when the journey is between 1km and 2km. The most recent figures show 68% of commuters in Scotland travel by car, with only 12% walking and 3% choosing to cycle.


Over 50% of journeys between 1km and 2km are made by car in Scotland.


Image: Motorway rain by Keep Scotland Beautiful.


Tackling transport emissions


Making vehicles less dependent on fossil fuels will contribute to achieving net zero. But replacing all petrol and diesel vehicles with electric versions will not deal with the problem of congestion – not to mention other issues like road safety, accessibility and affordability.


Cutting travel for work though homeworking and digital meetings has a part to play. But one of the biggest differences we can make is by switching to public transport and active travel such as cycling, wheeling and walking.


Travelling by walking, cycling and wheeling has great benefits for our physical and emotional health too. And now e-bikes are providing an ever-more attractive alternative to take same of the effort out of cycling.