Just transition for the transport sector: a discussion paper

This discussion paper is intended to support engagement on a just transition for the transport sector. Building on this engagement, a draft targeted action plan and route map (late 23/24) will outline the key steps to delivering a fair transition for the sector.

Summary of existing commitments and scope

This paper builds on existing commitments, particularly:

A briefing document summarising existing commitments and providing further context can be found in the policy context document in Annex A. The additional value of the Transport Just Transition Plan will be to identify the interventions necessary to empower all parts of society to play their part in the net zero transition.

Textbox 1 - Summary of existing transport commitments

  • We have committed to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030, and have published a draft route map to set out how we will meet that commitment.
  • Scotland already has the most generous concessionary scheme in the UK, investing £300 million annually to provide free bus travel for over 2.6 million people, including everyone under 22 and over 60.
  • As at June 2023 up to £26.47 million of bus priority funding has been awarded to 11 Partnerships covering 28 local authorities across Scotland through the Bus Partnership Fund. Investing in bus priority is key to tackling the impacts of congestion, making journey times shorter and services more reliable for passengers, encouraging people to leave their cars at home.
  • Scotland has the most comprehensive Electric Vehicles public charging network in the UK outside of London, with over 3,850 public charge points. Over 2,400 of these were funded through a £65 million investment in Charge Place Scotland.
  • We have pledged at least £320 million a year or 10% of the total transport budget by 2024 to 2025 towards active travel infrastructure, access to bicycles and to support behaviour change for active travel.
  • We have committed to publishing Transport Scotland's Approach to Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, seeking to address the current and future climate risks affecting Scotland's transport system.

The Just Transition Commission recommended that the Just Transition Plans should focus on actions that are likely to have the biggest, transformational impacts.

The Scottish Government commissioned the Decarbonising the Transport Sector[10] report which showed that achieving the required emissions reductions is possible, but challenging. It set out the emissions reduction pathway for each mode, and found only one modelled scenario, referred to as scenario "PS3" in the report (Figure 3), provides a pathway for reaching the transport envelope.

Figure 3 This graph from Element Energy's modelling demonstrates the need for emissions from car use to reduce substantially

Given the above, this paper focuses on the mode of transport with the largest share of carbon emissions, cars. Transitioning to lower or zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) is not likely to be sufficient on its own to reach the scale of emissions reduction required. Therefore, this paper gives particular attention to creating an enabling environment for individuals, communities and the private, public and third sectors to reduce car use and increase use of public transport and active travel.

Car use itself is also representative of existing inequalities in society: people in higher socio-economic groups tend to drive cars the most, whereas those in the lowest socio-economic groups drive the least or do not own cars. At the same time, people in the lowest socio-economic groups are most likely to be affected by the negative environmental, social and health impacts of driving. Rural Scotland and island communities are also particularly reliant on using cars owing to the remoteness of certain areas and the distances they need to travel to access amenities as a result.

We are looking at transport across the country, recognising the need for different approaches in different areas. It is clear that not all travel needs and opportunities are the same. Those who live in urban environments will generally have more alternatives to car travel than those living in rural or island areas who will have to travel further to reach services and will have fewer public transport options. This can make private vehicle ownership, or undertaking journeys as a passenger in a vehicle, a necessity in many cases. Whilst people in all parts of Scotland may need to consider a degree of change in their travel patterns, the TJTP will identify which areas can go further, sooner, and where additional support or alternative approaches will be needed.

The travel behaviour aspect is also important in relation to the weather-related impacts of climate change. These already affect Scotland's transport system and the action we are taking to make our system more resilient. For example, during adverse weather it may prove easier for those in urban or semi-urban areas to switch between sustainable transport modes, whereas in rural or island areas private car use may be the only option.


Email: justtransition@gov.scot

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