The Issue of Increasing Environmental Sustainability in the UK

Environmental Problems and Causes in the United Kingdom

The country that will be focused on this study of sustainable futures and environmental problems is the United Kingdom. According to research conducted by Power (2003) on the environmental issues that affect the low-income communities in the UK, Power noted that the major environmental problems that affected these communities were air and noise pollution, traffic congestion, and global warming. With regards to traffic congestion, the UK experiences one of the worst traffic problems in the world. According to the country’s Department of Transport, traffic congestion is deemed to be one of the most serious transport problems being experienced by many UK residents. The Department of Transport has estimated that traffic congestion costs the economy of the UK around £22 billion in a year (Department for Transport, 2010).

The major causes of traffic congestion in the UK include the decreasing cost of vehicles in the country as well as the inexpensive customs and import duty charged on vehicle imports. The increasing national income of the country has also made it possible for people in various income brackets to afford motor vehicles and other forms of transportation that have exasperated the traffic problem in the UK. The inadequate and never expanding road capacity has also contributed in a large part to the traffic problems in the country (Department for Transport, 2010).

The environmental problem of air and noise pollution has proved to be a major threat to the environment of the United Kingdom as many of the major urban areas of the country continue to experience major population growth. The source of most air and noise pollution in the United Kingdom comes from road traffic and the construction industry. The transport industry in the country has contributed in large to the deteriorating air quality in many of the urban areas. Scientific evidence has validated this problem with statistics showing that 19million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions were made by the transport industry. This made up 8.7 % of the country’s total emissions which came from traffic and the transport industry (Scottish Government, 2010). Apart from road traffic, air traffic has also contributed in large to the environmental problems in the country where residential areas built near airports experience noise pollution. The construction industry has also contributed to air and noise problems in the UK as a result of increasing urban developments that have resulted in the construction of industrial and residential buildings (Power, 2003).

Public Policies used to increase Sustainability in the UK

The link that exists between air, noise pollution, and transport congestion has become more widely recognized by many developed countries as they develop policies to deal with these environmental problems. The public policies that have been incorporated by the UK to deal with environmental problems such as traffic congestion, air, and noise pollution include the commissioning of research activities that will identify suitable solutions to noise, air, and traffic problems that affect the environment in the country (PSIRU, 2010). Other public policies that have been formulated to deal with environmental issues in the country include public policies meant to conserve biodiversities and ecosystems in the country that are important to the air quality of the country, sustainable transport policies that have been formulated to provide sustainable alternatives to private cars and public policies that encourage the use of low carbon energy to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The public policies created by the UK government have also addressed the aspect of social exclusion to increase sustainability within the various economic groups in the country where retired people and people that need special care are eligible for cheap or free public transport. The Disability Discrimination Act has made it possible for the country’s government to make public transport more accessible to disabled persons (PSIRU, 2010).

Policies used to reduce the destruction of Ecosystems

The public policies that have been implemented to reduce the destruction of the natural ecosystems that exist within the country include the conservation of biodiversities that are meant to conserve the natural habitats and wildlife that exist in the country to improve the quality of urban green space that exists within the country. The government has also imposed gas emission quotas on factories and industries in the country that emit dangerous gases into the atmosphere. These pollution and gas emission quotas have also been applied to the transport industry of the UK to deal with the air pollution that is caused by traffic congestion problems. The transport industry has also been forced to acquire emission trading permits where certain levels of emissions and harmful substances can be released into the atmosphere (Sustainable Scale, 2003). These policies have been developed to deal with air, noise, and traffic pollution in the country that affects both the human, animal, and plant population in the various urban areas of the United Kingdom.

Problems in Implementing the Policies

The major problems that have been experienced in implementing the above policies have been the reducing capacity of many of the urban areas in the country to cater to environmental conservation efforts. The increasing urban population in many of the cities and urban areas that make up the United Kingdom has made it difficult for environmental public policies to be implemented to deal with aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. In the case of traffic, air, and noise pollution, the government has been able to develop several strategies that will be used to reduce traffic problems in the country such as carpooling or sharing, the increase of parking fees in major cities and towns which is meant to discourage the use of private cars, the introduction of toll charges, the improvement of the rail transport system in the country and the construction of cycleways to encourage more bicycle use instead of private cars. These strategies have helped to reduce air and noise pollution in some urban areas and cities such as England, London, and Wales (DEFRA, 2010).

Policy Suggestions

Public policy suggestions that can be used by the United Kingdom to reduce air and noise pollution will involve placing restrictions on urban planning developments in areas that are near major traffic areas such as highways, airports, and rail stations. This will ensure that the people living in these areas are not affected by the noise of airplanes, trains, and motor vehicles while they are in their houses. Another public policy that can be used to deal with traffic congestion in the country is to increase the import duty of private cars to discourage people from purchasing personal cars thereby encouraging the use of public transport such as the bus and rail system in the country.


Department for Transport (2010). Tackling congestion on our roads. Web.

DEFRA (2010). Helping people make better choices. Web.

Power, A., (2003). Environmental issues and human behavior in low-income areas in the UK. Web.

Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) (2010). Public policies, environmental health, sustainability and social inclusion in developed countries. Web.

Scottish Government (2009). Food prices: an overview of current evidence. Web.

Sustainable Scale (2003). Supportive Public Policies: How to make public policy solutions work. Web.

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DemoEssays. "The Issue of Increasing Environmental Sustainability in the UK." May 12, 2022.