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Government must join up air quality and climate policies says 'think-tank'

Mon 26 June 2017 | Back to news list

A new report from the 'think-tank' Policy Exchange says that the Government must produce a strategy to ‘clean up’ road transport, and ensure that efforts to tackle air pollution and climate change are not developed in isolation.
The report says that while road transport plays a crucial role in society it also gives rise to significant negative externalities: it is the principal cause of urban air pollution, and a major contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions.
This report provides a picture of recent trends in road use, and reviews the main technical options to address road transport emissions – from new technologies like electric, hydrogen and natural gas vehicles, to making conventional vehicles more efficient, and encouraging people to take public transport.
Policy Exchange argues that the Government needs to take more coordinated and assertive action to address the twin problems of carbon emissions and air pollution from road use.
It also identifies that the decarbonisation of road transport could lead to fiscal challenges in the future, as the shift to lower carbon vehicles erodes fuel duty receipts. The move to lower emission vehicles, it says, will also require significant investment in energy, transport and communications infrastructure.
The report comments that there is a potential ‘tension’ between efforts to meet decarbonisation objectives without harming air quality – evidenced, it says, through the promotion of diesel vehicles as a means of helping to meet the UK’s climate change ambitions.
The report says: “Whilst government clearly recognises these challenges, the current approach to tackling them is disjointed and insufficient. As it stands, there are a number of strategies and policies in place, but no overarching government strategy to deliver the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and a weak strategy to address NO2 pollution.”
The report advocates encouraging improvements in the efficiency of conventional vehicles, further adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles, use of alternative fuels such as biofuels and natural gas, replacing road transport with other modes of transport such as rail, or encouraging behaviour change through activities such as car sharing.
Among its many recommendations Policy Exchange states that the Department for Transport should develop a new vehicle rating system – which would take into account the ‘direct’ exhaust emissions, as well as ‘indirect’ emissions associated with power generation.
The report also calls for a ‘continual’ review of the grants system for ultra-low emission vehicles – in order to ensure that it is still obtaining value for money.
The report also recommends that government put in place an “appropriate regulatory framework” to create a competitive market for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which should be brought within the remit of Ofgem.
Government funding for the deployment of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure, it says, should continue to focus on heavy goods vehicles and buses, as this appears to be the vehicle segment where hydrogen has a potential advantage over battery electric vehicles.
The LowCVP's ongoing 'Lower Carbon, Cleaner Air' initiative from 2016 continues to work to join up the air quality and climate agenda following the signing of a high level communiqué by leading organisations working to tackle either challenge.
The LowCVP's 2017 Annual Conference was focused on reducing both carbon and polluting emissions in the city environment.
The Department for Transport-supported work programme already under way at the LowCVP covers many of the issues raised in the report including work to evaluate new fiscal changes needed for the low carbon transport system.  Members of the Partnership can engage with these projects via the working groups.

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