Engineering论文模板 – Sustainability Principles Related to the Transportation Industry in the Uk


“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are plans to protect man. – Stewart Udall” (Nini, 2016). One of the major challenges facing by the current world is skyrocketing environmental problems. The world is becoming unsustainable as time goes on because of the injudicious human activities like heavy industrialization, increased automobile use, and injudicious farming methods. The call for the creation of a sustainable world is currently intensifying from all corners because of the concerns regarding the life of future generations in this world. The concept of sustainability is getting more attention at present under the above circumstances. As noted by Weitzman (2007), increasing global warming and climate change problems have put economics to a severe test that forced economists to develop the sustainability concept without making any compromise on the needs of the society and the environment or nature.

The Concept of Sustainability, Local and Global Challenges, and Motivation for Change

       Although the concept of sustainability received enormous attention only in recent times, the ideas or movements such as social justice, conservationism, and internationalism that paved the way for the development of this concept have rich histories. These ideas and movements combined and attained the proportion of the concept ‘sustainable development’ by the end of the 20th century with the appointment of Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1983 by the United Nations to lead World Commission on Environment and Development (UN Documents Gathering a body of global agreements, N.D.).

In simple words, sustainability or sustainable development is the developmental activities that are capable of meeting the needs of the present generation without causing any damages to the needs of the future generation (Brown, 2015; Allen, & Shonnard, 2011; Mead, 2012). As pointed out by Kemp et al. (2005), sustainable development is the effective integration of social, economic, and ecological elements that are interconnected to each other. Sustainability has three major pillars – Economy, Environment and Society – that were overlapped each other as illustrated in the figure below

Figure 1

The Pillars of Sustainability

As illustrated in the fig.1 above, each element of sustainable development has three parameters. For example, the social element has bearable, equitable, and sustainable parameters whereas economic elements that viable, sustainable, and equitable parameters. On the other hand, the environmental element has viable, bearable, and sustainable parameters. In short, sustainable parameters the common factor in all three elements of sustainable development. It means that the current generation needs to give more importance to the sustainable parameters while mobilizing the human, natural and social capitals for the social, economic, and environmental developments. As evident from the figure above, not all the viable, bearable, and equitable parameters need to be sustainable. While thinking about developmental activities, it is necessary to select only those viable, bearable, and equitable parameters that are sustainable.

The major local and global challenge concerning sustainability is the selection of sustainable parameters that are viable, bearable, and equitable. For example, the social dimension of sustainability demands poverty alleviation, social justice, health, and safety, etc. However, it is a big challenge to achieve these objectives without sacrificing the interests of the natural and economic objectives of sustainability. For instance, increased consumerism will help the world to achieve its economic objectives. However, increased or unethical consumerism will result in the overexploitation of natural resources that are necessary for the sustainment of the life of the future generation.

Rawls’ Theory of Justice can be applied in the case of sustainability. As per the arguments of this theory, nobody can deny the basic liberties and freedoms of an individual. Another argument of this theory is that it is necessary to maximize the benefits of the lowest in society (Dutta, 2017). Based on this theory, it is an injustice to deny the rights of poor people to get enough water, food, opportunities, and shelter in the name of sustainability. As noted by Gibbs (2007), any regulatory strategies enforced in the name of sustainability or environmentalism should protect the needs of the poor in society. In other words, regulatory measures implemented for the protection of the earth should focus on limiting the activities of the elites rather than limiting the basic needs of the poor in the world. In short, the motivation for a change in terms of sustainability is good in principle and difficult to implement in practice because of its complex social, economic, and environmental dimensions that are overlapped each other.

The PSIR (Pressure, State, Impact, Response) framework developed by Swart and Bakkes (1995) is useful in analysing sustainable development problems. Applying this framework in the case of CO2 emissions, one can label CO2-emissions as pressure, CO2 concentration of the atmosphere as (state), global temperature increase as the impact, and carbon tax as the response (Bossel, 1999).

How the Transportation Industry in The UK Could Become Zero Carbon By 2050?

The increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and the subsequent increase in the greenhouse effect appear to be the biggest contributor to climate change as illustrated in fig.2.

Figure 2

CO2 acceleration trends over the last 50 years (McKay, 2008)

One of the major problems caused by CO2 acceleration is the increase in atmospheric temperature. The global atmospheric temperature increase from 1850 to 2015 is illustrated in the fig.3 below

Figure 3

Global atmospheric temperature increase during 1850-2015 (McKay, 2008)

Although industries play a significant role, the transportation industry seems to be the major culprit in causing carbon dioxide emissions and subsequent problems such as global warming and climate changes. The majority of carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil fuel burning. As most of the vehicles operating in the UK are powered by fossil fuels, the transportation sector of the country cannot become zero carbon by 2050 unless the use of such vehicles is not controlled or regulated. 

As evident from fig.4, transport is the only industry in the UK in which greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990 (Friends of the earth, 2019). As CO2 is the major greenhouse gas emitted by the transportation industry, the ambition of the UK to become zero carbon by 2050 will not be fulfilled unless the CO2-emissions in the transportation industry have not been controlled.

Figure 4

Greenhouse gas emissions from the UK transport industry in 1990 and 2017 (Friends of the earth, 2019)

The fig 5 given below illustrates the greenhouse gas emission contributions of various modes of transport in the UK in the year 1990 and 2017

Figure 5

Greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors of the UK transport industry in 1990 and 2017 (Friends of the earth, 2019)

As evident from fig.5, road transport is the major villain in the case of greenhouse gas or CO2 emission. The volume of CO2 emission from the road and international aviation transport sectors has increased considerably in 2017 compared to the figures in 1990. Therefore, the UK needs to concentrate more on road transport and international aviation transport while trying to achieve carbon zero objectives by 2050.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has set plenty of emission targets as part of its Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) and the effort to make the country carbon zero by 2050. However, recent statistics show that the gap between the actual targets and the forecasted targets is widening in the domestic transport and international aviation transport sectors (Watson, 2019).

It appears that the UK has a generous attitude towards aviation industry emission although it talks too much about the necessity of reducing CO2 emission in other transportation sectors such as road transport. The CCC has not yet set any realistic target for the reduction of CO2 emission in the aviation industry although it set a tentative target of 35 MtCO2e by 2050 for this industry in 2009. The UK expects at least 60% to increase air passengers by 2050 (Friends of the earth, 2019). In such a case it is logical to assume that the number of passenger aircraft operating in the country will also be increased significantly by 2050. There is plenty of skepticism regarding the ability of aviation in the country to become carbon neutral by 2050 considering the increase in the passenger number every year (Topham, 2020). In any case, the country must replace fossil fuel usage in the aviation industry by sustainable biofuels or electro fuels (Japhe, 2018). The industry needs to think about replacing current aircraft with electric planes in the future to achieve its carbon zero target set for 2050. Moreover, the industry needs to develop more fuel-efficient engines for aircraft in the coming years.

To reduce carbon emission in the road transport sector, the UK needs to give more attention to the development of electric or hybrid vehicles. Although the concept of solar-powered vehicles is attractive, lack of development of technology in this regard is a big hurdle to cross. However, the country can concentrate more on the replacement of fossil fuel vehicles by electric or hybrid vehicles in the coming years. The UK government has already announced plenty of funding streams to encourage the use of ultra-low emission vehicles that are expensive compared to fossil fuel vehicles. The government has announced £48 million in 2019 for the purchase of 263 low emission buses (Energy Saving Trust, 2019). Many of the people in the UK have the habit of using vehicles even for a small distance trip. The country needs to encourage the use of bicycles for such travels by empowering the public by organizing various awareness campaigns and programs. People should be encouraged to use public transport more often and be discouraged the use of private vehicles for their traveling needs. The CCC recommends to the people that they should sell their last new car with a fossil fuel engine by 2030. The committee believes that the electric cars in 2030 will have the same cost of the fossil fuel cars of the 2020 (Bannon, 2019). In such a scenario people will not show any reluctance for the purchase of electric vehicles by 2030. Current sales of electric vehicles in the country are limited because of their higher cost. As electric vehicles are charged by renewable energy, carbon emissions from such vehicles will be minimum

How Much Area Would Be Required for Renewable Energy to Replace the Primary Energy Demand in the UK Transportation Industry?

According to a report by EU Science Hub (2019), conversion of just 1% of land to renewable energy production is enough for meeting the electricity consumption of the EU. This estimation could be true in the case of the UK transportation industry also as PV panels and wind turbines are the major renewable energy sources in the country. As electric vehicles going to be the alternatives for fossil fuel vehicles in the coming years, the UK must construct more charging ports at different locations of the country in the future. If solar energy and wind energy are used to fuel these charging ports, CO2 emission can be further reduced.

As of now, the UK is not exploiting its full potential for the development of renewable energy like solar energy and wind energy. According to McKay (2008), the UK is blessed with a sunshine of 1000W/m2 at midday on a cloudless day. This does not mean that one square metre of the land area is needed for the production of 1000W. It should be noted that solar panels can be fixed on air using polls that are fixed on the land. In other words, most of the areas required for the installation of solar farms will be the air areas rather than land areas (McKay, 2008).

The amount of renewable electricity generation from various sources is given in the fig.6 below

Figure 6

(Spry & Lucking, 2020)

In the case of offshore wind energy exploitation, the UK is the leader in the world. It has more installed capacity than any other country in the world. It is estimated that the windmills in the country will produce around 10% of the country’s electric needs by 2020. The cost of offshore wind energy in the country has reduced by 50% since 2015 (Renewable UK, 2020). Compared to nuclear power or gas power, offshore wind power is the cheapest in the country. The UK is currently investing more in the development of more offshore wind energy (Renewable UK, 2020). As in the case of offshore wind energy, onshore wind energy is also a major renewable energy source in the country. It caters around 9% of the energy needs of the country as per the 2017 statistics (Renewable UK, 2020). In other words, offshore and onshore wind energy together meet around 19% of the energy needs of the UK.

For the first time in the history of the UK, renewables plus nuclear did succeed in generating more power in the UK in 2017 compared to the power generated by gas and coal together. As the UK is an island, the country has tremendous potential in generating electricity from other renewable energy sources such as wave power and tidal power. However, the country has not invested heavily in these types of renewable energy sources until now. Geothermal power is another renewable energy source that can be exploited by the UK. The 1973 oil crisis forced the UK to think about the exploitation of this energy source. However, the oil price drops forced the country to abandon such efforts later (BBC News, 2004). Microgeneration technologies or local production of electricity by homes and businesses using wind power or solar power also have ample potential in solving the energy crisis of the country. However, the government is reluctant in providing ample funding for such efforts (Elliott, 2007).


In conclusion, the ambition or target of the UK to become carbon zero by 2050 could be difficult to achieve unless the government strengthens its policies for the exploitation of renewable energy sources. The country has enormous unused or underused renewable energy resources such as tidal energy, wave energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, and wind energy. Although the country can exploit the onshore and offshore wind energy up to a greater extent, the exploitation of energy from other renewables is still minimum. As the transportation industry in the country contributes a larger share of the CO2 emission, it is necessary to target this sector more comprehensively to achieve the target set for 2050.


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