An Exploration of Household Response to Personal Travel Carbon-Reduction Targets

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle, planning - environmental impact, land use - impacts, land use - planning, ridership - mode choice, policy - environment, policy - sustainable, organisation - management


Vehicle exhaust, United Kingdom, Travel behavior, Sustainable transportation, Pollutants, Mode choice, Modal choice, Households, Greenhouse gases, Great Britain, Exhaust gases, Exhaust emissions, Environmental protection, Environmental policy, Environmental planning, Environmental management, Environmental impacts, Environmental effects, Emissions, Choice of transportation, Carbon dioxide, Automobile exhaust


Transport is currently responsible for around 25% of the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the United Kingdom, and this proportion is projected to increase. The transport sector will undoubtedly need to play a significant role in achieving carbon reductions if the government is to meet its ambitious long-term goal of a 60% reduction by 2050. This paper examines current carbon use by households for personal land-based transport and considers how feasible it would be to change that use over the period up to 2050 in the United Kingdom. It provides a unique insight into how much and in what way households and individuals may be willing to adapt their transport behavior to achieve carbon reductions. A computer-based transport carbon calculator was developed to investigate the CO2 emissions of individual households from various modes based on travel diary information. This formed the focus of a series of interactive interviews in which participants were asked to consider how their future low carbon transport strategy could look. Views of households on various abatement measures were explored, including technological change in vehicle design or fuel source and behavioral change through, for instance, traffic restraint and investment in public transport. Overall, a 40% reduction in carbon emissions was seen as feasible through a combination of behavioral change measures and a realistically achievable degree of technological improvement, falling well short of the U.K. government's goal of a 60% reduction. Through behavioral change alone, households involved could only achieve about 20% cuts in carbon emissions; seemingly a threshold beyond which further reductions will be difficult and may necessitate significant lifestyle change.