If three major roads in the UK all experienced badly-timed traffic flow, the amount of CO2 emissions produced by just one minute of traffic jams amounts to the same energy saving as switching off 2,000 street lights, the AA has calculated.
The AA is calling on local authorities to stop fining individual motorists with congestion charges, low-emissions vehicle tax-disc reductions or timing their street lighting, and to look to their own traffic flow models to prevent queues building up.
"Stationary traffic or idling longer at the lights is not good for the environment, so we need a concerted effort to reduce congestion," says Edmund King, the AA’s president.
"Current council policies to reduce CO2 focus on the car user rather than on what the council could do. So in terms of parking policy, residents with cars are penalised for the size of their engine (Richmond) or the length of their car (Norwich). Drivers also lose out with congestion charging (London), picked on for their car’s tax band, or when streetlights are turned off (Buckinghamshire). Councils should be accountable for CO2 reduction, by upgrading gridlocked junctions, coordinating roadworks and reducing waiting times at traffic lights."
With the average petrol car producing 0.72 litres of CO2 per hour and the average diesel emitting 0.45 litres per hour a commuting motorist delayed for ten seconds on every journey for a year would fill almost four squash courts with the additional fumes.