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Decoupling the link between economic growth, transport growth and carbon emissions in Scotland.

Gray, David; Anable, Jillian; Illingworth, Laura; Graham, Wendy


Jillian Anable

Laura Illingworth

Wendy Graham


Unlike most other sectors of the economy, transport energy consumption and carbon emissions are increasing. The transport sector accounted for about 17% of Scotlands 17.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2003 (excluding air travel and maritime) - up 6% on 1990- levels (The Scottish Executive: 2006a). Yet, transport demand is largely derived from other economic activity. Emissions of carbon from transport derive from the amount of transport activity and the technological efficiency of these movements. The objective of a sustainable transport system, therefore, should be to improve access to goods and services without excessive or unnecessary mobility and subsequent emissions. In other words, economic growth (in the widest sense) needs to be realised with less transport (at least in terms of resource use and environmental impacts). Achieving economic development without a proportional increase in transport activity (and emissions) is known as decoupling. Decoupling transport demand from economic development is purported to be the only way to deliver true long-term sustainability. This report will examine whether future economic development can occur in Scotland with significantly less mobility and carbon output than has been achieved in the past. To do this, section 2 of this paper will review the literature on decoupling and transport intensity, providing definitions and arguments for and against these objectives. Evidence on where decoupling has been achieved in other countries and sectors will also be presented. Following this, section 3 will present a selection of personal surface and freight transport measures that are most likely to satisfy accessibility and economic development objectives without proportional increases in transportation activity and emissions1. Section 4 will summarise the findings of this review. THIS IS A REPORT PRODUCED BY ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY CENTRE FOR TRANSPORT POLICY FOR THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE.


GRAY, D., ANABLE, J., ILLINGWORTH, L. and GRAHAM, W. 2006. Decoupling the link between economic growth, transport growth and carbon emissions in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Report Type Research Report
Online Publication Date Aug 31, 2006
Publication Date Aug 31, 2006
Deposit Date Jul 30, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jul 30, 2015
Publisher Scottish Government
Keywords Transport growth; Economic growth; Decoupling; Transport intensity
Public URL
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