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A new Oxford University study says while transport policies inside greater London are helping reduce carbon emissions, the real environmental problem is just beyond the M25 motorway because people living around London depend so much on their cars.

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The research, published in the journal Transport Policy, lays out the need for a regional strategy in the southeast to tackle the environmental, transport and planning challenges. If business continues as usual, it says carbon emissions targets will not be met ‘by a large margin’.

The study uses existing data to measure and compare aggregate levels of greenhouse gases from car journeys made inside and outside of greater London, based on governmental household travel surveys (conducted over 2008-09), in which residents reported daily mileage and transport choices (in greater London and the southeast) and data on carbon emissions for the average car.

The researcher's statistical model finds that in 2012, the population of 12 million living in the southeast but outside greater London produced over three-quarters of the car emissions in the region. It calculates around 77% emissions produced by southeast residents outside London compared with just 23% of emissions due to car journeys made by those living in greater London (with residents numbering around 8 million in 2012). The model also finds that in the southeast outside greater London, the average daily car mileage per person was 15.6 miles as compared with 7.7 miles for residents in the capital itself.

The paper by Caralampo Focas, a Senior Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University's Transport Studies Unit, comments that targets for tackling carbon emissions announced by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in 2010 are unlikely to be successfully met. The aim is to reduce traffic emissions in the greater London region to 1.8 million tonnes by 2025, but the study calculates that emissions are likely to be closer to 4.4 million tonnes by 2020 if business continues as usual.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)