Fuel duty freeze has triggered five million extra tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

Greener Journeys
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  • The Chancellor must end the freeze in fuel duty on 11 March
  • Freeze has led to a quarter of a billion fewer bus journeys
  • Transport is now most polluting sector causing 27% of UK emissions

The Chancellor must end the freeze in fuel duty on 11th March if he is to demonstrate that the UK is serious about meeting its net zero target.

Whilst the freeze in fuel duty has been welcomed by many road users there have been unintended consequences in terms of increased pollution and congestion and a shift from public transport to car use.

Greener Journeys research shows that the Government’s nine-year freeze on fuel duty has caused an extra 5 million tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide emissions by encouraging people to abandon public transport in favour of their cars.  The freeze since 2011 has led to 5% more traffic, 250 million fewer bus journeys and 75 million fewer rail journeys.  It has also caused an extra 15,000 tonnes of harmful NOx emissions.

Transport has become the biggest emitting sector of the UK economy responsible for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions.  Transport emissions are rising largely because people are driving more, and new car emissions are increasing.   Research published last week by Which? shows that most recent petrol, diesel and hybrid cars are producing 7% more carbon dioxide than older equivalents because of consumer demand for larger vehicles.

Improving public transport is an excellent way of lowering emissions from transport.  A double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.  Investing in public transport networks also improves the life chances and opportunities for everyone in society.  Previous research for Greener Journeys has shown that a 10% improvement in bus service connectivity is linked to a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation.

The PM recently announced an extra £5 billion for local transport.  Greener Journeys welcomed this as an important step but to get the value of that investment we will need measures to nudge people to switch from car to public transport.

Claire Haigh, the Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said:

“The PM has been clear that the Government is committed to delivering on its climate commitments and to delivering for those who only lent the Conservatives their vote in the last election.  Ending the freeze in fuel duty would deliver on both objectives.

Ending the freeze would send a clear message that the UK is serious about meeting its net zero target.  By nudging people to switch some of their car journeys to public transport, it would also support those transport networks that are vital for improving life chances for everyone.”


For further information

Greener Journeys Press Office

press@greenerjourneys.com or +44 (0) 7769 683391


Notes to Editors

  1. About Greener Journeys

Greener Journeys is dedicated to encouraging more sustainable travel.  We undertake research into the social, economic and environmental benefits of public transport, and campaign for those benefits to be realized. Our work allows everyone from policy makers to industry executives to individual passengers to make positive and evidence-based decisions about how people travel www.greenerjourneys.com


  1. About the Research

The Unintended Consequences of Freezing Fuel Duty was originally published by Greener Journeys in 2018 and demonstrated the wider impacts of the freeze in fuel duty since 2011.  The research has been updated to reflect the continuation of the freeze in fuel duty.


  1. Forthcoming event: “Decarbonising Transport”, Tuesday 3rd March in Westminster

Are there contradictions between policies consistent with delivering on the net zero target and the Government’s levelling up agenda?   

This is just one of the many questions that will be discussed at “Decarbonising Transport” a Transport Knowledge Hub event on Tuesday 3rd March in Westminster.  Presentations will be heard from leading academics including Professor Dieter Helm, University of Oxford; Professor Stephen Glaister, Imperial College; Professor Jillian Anable, University of Leeds; Professor Glenn Lyons, University of the West of England.

The event is by invitation only.  Please see here for further details.   If you are interested in attending, please email transportknowledgehub@connectpa.co.uk

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