Transport is a major source of greenhouse gases. Around a quarter of domestic carbon dioxide (CO₂) and other greenhouse gas emissions in the UK come from transport. Transport is also a source of emissions which make air quality worse.

Reducing greenhouse gases from transport will help our long term goal of reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050.


Ultra-low emission vehicles

Ultra-low emission vehicles, such as electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen powered cars and vans, help cut down greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution on our roads. To encourage more people to drive these vehicles, the government:

  • provides grants to those who purchase ultra-low emission vehicles
  • contributes to the funding of of innovative research and development through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)
  • is setting out a framework for the development of a recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles
  • continues to give funding to the Plugged-in Places programme
  • continues to set ambitious performance standards to deliver emissions reductions from new vehicles – a new car sold today is on average 18% more fuel efficient than the car it replaces

Reducing emissions from shipping

The Government is working in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop technical, operational and market-based measures at a global level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

The IMO has already successfully agreed some technical and operational measures to address greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

In the short to medium term, the Government is focusing on work in the IMO to develop further technical and operational measures.

In the long term, the Government’s goal is an IMO market-based measure to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from ships.


Sustainable biofuels (produced with low impact on the environment) can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. To encourage their production and use we amended the original Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (RTFO) order so that it’s fully compliant with the requirements of European legislation. This means we only reward the production of biofuels that deliver greenhouse gas savings and don’t cause environmental damage.

Air quality

‘Air quality’ refers to the levels of substances in outdoor air that are harmful to health and the natural environment. Work on ultra-low emission vehicles, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the Green Bus Fund are all helping to reduce air pollution from transport.

In 2011 the government provided £10 million of targeted funding to improve air quality in London, including a programme to retrofit buses with technology to reduce pollution.

Since August 2013 a further £7.5 million has been awarded under the new Clean Bus Technology Fund. This will pay for the upgrade of more than 500 buses in 25 local and transport authorities outside London to reduce the harmful NOx gases they produce.


The Climate Change Act (2008) established a long-term framework and targets to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

The government drew up the Carbon Plan in December 2011, to move the UK to a low carbon future in order to meet the Climate Change Act targets.

The plan includes the following transport actions:

  • over £400 million funding for the development, supply and use of ultra-low emission vehicles until 2015 – through consumer incentives, support for recharging infrastructure and research, development and demonstration
  • the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is providing £600 million between 2011 and 2015 to 96 local transport projects across England to promote economic growth and cut carbon emissions
  • the electrification of the North Transpennine route from Manchester to York via Leeds, which will result in significant carbon savings as well as increased reliability and shorter journey times
  • the fourth round of the Green Bus fund providing a further £13 million for the purchase of low carbon emission buses, bringing the total support for this initiative to £88 million since its launch
  • putting a total of £8 million into low emission HGVs and their supporting infrastructure

Driving the Future Today, A strategy for ultra low emission vehicles in the UK includes a funding commitment of over £500 million of new capital investment between 2015 and 2020 to continue to establish the UK as a premier market for ULEVs.

To shape this policy, we used economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling and research.

Bills and legislation

Biofuel legislation

Biofuel regulation in the UK is principally covered by the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) Order which came into force in 2007. An amended version of the order has been implemented to fulfil the transport elements of the EC’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in the UK.

UK legislation

EU legislation

EU legislation