This paper explores people’s willingness to reduce travel consumption in support of the transition to a low-carbon pathway beyond COVID-19, using new survey data from UK car drivers and air travellers. Evidence from our study indicates that reductions of 24% – 30% to car use and 20% – 26% to air travel could be sustained in the long term. This potentially could lead to annual reductions of 343-529 kgCO 2 per car driver (20% – 29% of pre-COVID-19 car emissions) and 215-359 kgCO 2 per air traveller (10% – 20% of pre-COVID-19 emissions from flying), suggesting that behavioural change may be a major route to emissions reductions. We find that stated voluntary reductions are greater among those who report having ‘more time to do creative things’ since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Hence, recovery policies promoting low-carbon leisure time may be a key to consumption reductions. We also find that higher-income travellers consume and pollute substantially more than the rest, and yet there is little difference in relative voluntary reductions across the income distribution. We conclude that behaviour associated with affluence represents a major barrier to a low-carbon transition, and that policies must address over-consumption associated with affluence as a priority.

O’Garra, Tanya and Fouquet, Roger (2022) Willingness to reduce travel consumption to support a low-carbon transition beyond COVID-19. Ecological Economics, 193. ISSN 0921-8009

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