Climate change and the fight for decarbonisation mean that we have been hearing a lot about pollution lately, and modes of transport are also in the spotlight. Diesel or petrol cars? Public transport?


For the past few years, the debate on the control of toxic emissions and the management of environmental pollution has been on the front page of many media outlets every day. The repercussions this issue has on our immediate environment are increasingly having social, political and economic implications.

Now, at this time of the year, many of us travel and when we do so, we take many things into account. However, we rarely take into account which means of transport pollute the most or least to reach our destination.

These are the most and least polluting means of transport:

Walking and cycling:

Walking and cycling are always the most eco-friendly vehicles, which contribute to the care of the environment. Their use helps to control the amount of air and is a means of travel that does not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This way of getting around is also healthy and has multiple benefits, in fact, when moving around the city it is even faster to cycle or walk.

Trains and rail transport:

In this case, we are talking about the metro, the tramway, the high-speed trains… These represent the mass transport with the lowest emissions on the environment. The train, in particular, can carry more than 150 people with emissions of 14g of CO2 per person. In addition, using public transport brings another benefit to the environment by reducing traffic jams.

The ship:

Its environmental impact depends very much on the ship or the fuel it uses. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), a commercial vessel emits approximately 18 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled. A much more environmentally friendly option than other modes of transport, such as the car or plane (depending on emissions and occupancy capacity).

The car:

The real problem with car use is not in itself how much it pollutes (104g CO2 per kilometre per traveller), but that it is not used in a functional way. Of course, a car pollutes a lot and if it is a diesel car even more. To give you an idea, cars in Spain’s main cities pollute more in a single day than the country’s biggest factory does in a whole year. All the cars in the world generate ten times more polluting gases than all the active volcanoes on Earth.

The aeroplane:

Finally, the plane is the most polluting means of transport and the one that generates the most greenhouse emissions. On many occasions, for long-distance journeys we have no choice but to take the plane, however, for other shorter journeys, the train can be a much more environmentally friendly alternative.

In short, just by making small gestures and thinking a little about the environment when we travel, we could create a much more sustainable and less polluted planet.

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