Decarbonising transport

Practical advice on how councils can help reduce harmful transport emissions has been published by the LGA.

Last year, the LGA, like many councils, declared a climate emergency. As part of that declaration we have been looking at the decarbonisation of transport. 

Transport is now the biggest emitter of carbon of any sector in the UK. If we are going to reach our national target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, we will need a fundamental transformation of the ways we move.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we commissioned the University of Leeds to convene a series of workshops to discuss what policy options are available to councils. 

This work was themed around ‘avoid, shift and improve’ – actions that can help us avoid travelling, that can shift journeys onto public transport and active travel, and that can help us improve the technology we are using to emit less carbon (see first 644 and first 649). 

All of our communities will have to do all of these things to some extent, but the balance will be different for each area: some places will need to focus on improving emissions from cars, others will be able to move towards greater use of walking and cycling. 

The right combination for each community is best decided locally.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to revaluate how our transport networks operate but they have not altered our commitment to reaching net zero. Recovery from the crisis must be compatible with our decarbonisation ambitions.

Consequently, the LGA has produced a series of briefing notes that are mindful of both the new reality we are in and the opportunity we can grasp as part of a green recovery.

The briefing notes, developed with experts from the University of Leeds, will help councils with a practical set of actions they can take forward for decarbonisation – from understanding how to set achievable timescales through to implementing measures that will help people change their travel behaviours. 

They do not provide a prescription of what must be done, rather a menu of clear options for specific policy areas, from which various measures will need to be combined to deliver change. Councils will need to design the right mix for their own context and areas.

We hope local government finds them useful as we work towards our net-zero goal. 

Decarbonising transport briefings

  • ‘Getting carbon ambition right’ – explains key issues surrounding carbon targets, budgets and emissions reductions.
  • ‘The role of buses’ – looks at how to rebuild confidence in bus services and address shortcomings in reliability and passenger experience.
  • ‘Accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles’ – covers planning new developments, on-street residential charging points and managing council fleets.
  • ‘Climate smart parking policies’ – getting parking right in new developments, working with employers, car sharing and managing on-street parking.
  • ‘The role of land use, localisation and accessibility’ – using planning and design to reduce the distances people have to travel.
  • ‘Travelling less and the role of online opportunities’ – the carbon benefits of home working, online shopping, remote education and localised deliveries.
  • ‘Growing cycle use’ – cost-effective interventions for building an inclusive local cycling culture and safe, healthy facilities.


Complementing the practical guides, the LGA is holding a series of ‘Decarbonising transport’ webinars which are free to all councils. These include ‘Accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles’ on 14 October, ‘Climate smart parking policies’ on 12 November, ‘Land use, localisation and accessibility’ on 17 November, ‘Travelling less and the role of online opportunities’ on 24 November, and ‘Growing cycle use’ on 10 December.  See


React, respond and renew

Chairing remote meetings