Who flies but never drives? Highlighting diversity among high emitters for passenger transport in England

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

May 15, 2023


Energy research is paying increasing attention to inequalities in climate emissions and to the disproportionate contribution of ‘high emitters’ to national emissions, notably from transport. While the individual and household factors associated with high overall emissions are well-known, there is a need for a more nuanced understanding of who ‘high emitters’ across different domains are and what drives their emissions. This paper highlights diversity within the group of ‘high emitters’ for transport, based on survey data on English residents' car and air travel. We define groups characterised by high emissions from car travel, air travel, or both. We focus in particular on individuals with ‘dissonant’ profiles – i.e., combining low emissions for one mode and high emissions for the other. These nuances have been overlooked to date, but they are important from a policy perspective. We describe the identified groups with bivariate and multivariate methods, considering socio-economic attributes, neighbourhood characteristics, social network dispersion, and environmental attitudes. We find that individuals with ‘dissonant’ emission patterns account for up to 20 % of the population, and up to 30 % of emissions from car and air travel. Those who combine low car emissions with high emissions from air travel are more likely to be urban residents, higher-income groups, younger adults, females, migrants, and people with dispersed social networks. Individuals with the opposite profile of high car and low air travel emissions tend to be male, middle-aged, and long-distance commuters living in car-dependent areas. We conclude by discussing implications for climate policy in the transport sector.

Published in

Energy Research & Social Science


Volume: 99:103057








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