Smart Transport

UK consumers support carbon labelling for public transport

Four out of five UK consumers would support carbon labelling on services like public transport to help make more environmentally friendly choices, according to a new survey.

The GHD survey of 1,002 UK consumers shows that 81% support carbon labelling on daily services and 60% would pay more for environmentally friendly options.

GHD, a professional services company, is calling on the Government to build on its 10-point plan to accelerate the UK’s path to net zero by introducing carbon labelling on consumer services.

This would give consumers greater understanding of their carbon footprint so that they can make more environmentally friendly choices.

GHD envisages that carbon labelling could work in a similar way to nutritional labelling by displaying the approximate carbon impact of a particular service on the ticket or bill, such as a journey on public transport or a month’s energy or water consumption.

It could help companies offer carbon impact alternatives.

The survey indicates that greater transparency around the environmental impact of choices would help individuals to better understand their own carbon footprint, driving a conscious consumer shift in behaviours towards lower carbon consumption.

If the UK is to achieve its 2050 net zero target, GHD said consumer behaviour will be the key agent of change which it says is yet to be fully recognised.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found that those of younger generations are more willing to adapt their lifestyles to help the environment.

Significantly, despite typically earning less than their older counterparts, almost three quarters of the consumers polled aged between 18 and 24 would pay more for greener services.

Key observations from the research are as follows:

  • 81% support the concept of ‘carbon labelling’ on consumer services
  • 60% willing to pay more for environmentally friendly services, with 40% willing to pay 5+% extra; 74% of consumers aged 18-24 would pay more
  • 82% have at least some difficulty in understanding what their carbon footprint is
  • 63% believe that, with greater transparency of their carbon footprint, they would shift towards lowering it; this is highest among those aged 18-24 (67%)
  • 59% of consumers would choose lower carbon options if better informed about their overall consumption (70% of those aged 18-24)
  • Only 24% of respondents believe businesses are transparent enough with consumers about their carbon footprint

Consumers would most like to see carbon labelling introduced on energy bills, water bills and travel tickets.

Due to complex supply chains and reporting processes, this approach is best suited to industries where there is a clearer relationship between a product or service and its carbon impact, such as the water, public transport and energy sectors.

David Maunder, technical leader - future energy at GHD, said: “The Government’s 10-point plan is an important step in creating a decarbonised economy and contains key measures such as support to the development of hydrogen, carbon capture and investment into residential energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

“However, if the UK is to meet its target of net zero by 2050, not only will there be a need for new technologies and infrastructure, but consumer behaviour and choices will also play a central role in driving decarbonisation.

“The results of this survey lead us to believe that carbon labelling would be an extremely effective way of improving the general public’s understanding of their carbon footprint, while encouraging them to proactively participate in reducing their carbon consumption, and we urge the government to consider introducing this measure.”

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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