Press Story

  • Half of all transport emissions in Britain come from just one in five people, reveals new report
  • People with an income over £100k travel at least double the distance each year of those earning under £30k
  • IPPR calls for new taxes on private jets

New analysis by IPPR reveals how the climate crisis is fuelled by a few ultra-wealthy individuals in Britain.

The report finds that the transport system reflects wider inequalities in society, with the highest earners the highest polluters. The richest 0.1 per cent in Britain emit 22 times more from transport than low earners, and 12 times more than average.

A small minority of the population are creating the majority of transport emissions. Half of all transport emissions in Britain come from just one in five people (15 per cent) and the worst polluting 10 per cent of the population are responsible for four tenths (42 per cent) of all transport emissions.

The data finds that income is directly linked to levels of mobility. People with an income over £100,000 travel at least double the distance each year compared to those with incomes under £30,000.

The research also finds that:

  • Men are more likely to be high emitters than women, travelling significantly further by both car and plane
  • People from more deprived neighbourhoods tend to travel significantly less and emit less greenhouse gas than those from the least deprived
  • People with a disability are likely to travel far less than those without (including by plane), and their emissions are much lower as a result
  • People from a non-white British ethnicity tend to travel less far and emit less
  • Those aged 35 to 64 emit the most from private transport

The UK has made limited progress over the past three decades in reducing emissions from transport, which is now the country’s largest emitting sector.

The report states that to decarbonise transport in the UK, the government must improve public transport, boost active travel and speed up the transition to electric vehicles. This must include the Committee on Climate Change and the UK government doing more to put fairness and the British public at the heart of their net zero plans. The think tank recommends:

  • Introducing new taxes on private jets, including both increased air passenger duty and a kerosene tax
  • Lifting the ban on municipal bus fleets, making franchising of buses easier and ensuring the rail network is run in partnership with local leaders
  • Reinstating the 2030 ban on the purchase of new internal combustion engine vehicles and realigning the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate behind this.

Dr Maya Singer Hobbs, senior research fellow at IPPR, said:

Our transport system both reflects and contributes to social inequalities. Reducing emissions can actually tackle some of that injustice, if done fairly. But while not everyone needs to make the same changes, those who are financially best off need to do the most.”

Stephen Frost, principal research fellow at IPPR, said:

By putting people at the heart of our approach to reducing Britain’s climate impacts we demonstrate both who is best placed to cut their emissions at the pace needed and how doing so can help tackle the underlying unfairness in who the transport system currently works for.

Now is not the time to slow down our efforts to reach net zero, doing so just fuels existing transport inequalities. The next UK government must step up the pace by delivering a credible, fair and people-focussed plan for more sustainable travel.”


Dr Maya Singer Hobbs is available for interview


David Wastell, Director of News and Communications: 07921 403651

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  1. The IPPR paper, Moving together: A people-focussed pathway to fairer and greener transport by Stephen Frost and Dr Maya Singer Hobbs will be published at 00:01 on Wednesday 29 May 2024. It will be available for download at:
  2. Advance copies of the report are available under embargo on request
  3. Analysis is based on England’s National Travel Survey and Scottish Household Survey data for the years 2013–2021. It has been weighted to be representative of the Welsh population but does not include Northern Ireland.
  4. The report identifies 12 different types of travelers, who together represent the entire population of Great Britain, including:
    1. Highly affluent, unrestricted mobility who are more likely to fly internationally and domestically as well as travel by car. This group tend to be white males, aged 37, on annual incomes of £73,000, home-owning, working in professional or managerial jobs.
    2. Car free, high bus, low income who are more likely to use public transport, walk or ride a bike. The average person in this group is a white female, aged 43, on an annual income of £13,600, renting, working in routine or manual jobs.
  5. All of IPPR’s policy recommendations for improving the UK’s transport system can be found here:
  6. IPPR (the Institute for Public Policy Research) is an independent charity working towards a fairer, greener, and more prosperous society. We are researchers, communicators, and policy experts creating tangible progressive change, and turning bold ideas into common sense realities. Working across the UK, IPPR, IPPR North, and IPPR Scotland are deeply connected to the people of our nations and regions, and the issues our communities face. We have helped shape national conversations and progressive policy change for more than 30 years. From making the early case for the minimum wage and tackling regional inequality, to proposing a windfall tax on energy companies, IPPR’s research and policy work has put forward practical solutions for the crises facing society.