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Government outlines challenges and steps needed to decarbonise UK transport

Fri 27 March 2020 | Back to news list

The Government has published a document which it says marks "the beginning of a conversation to develop the policies needed to decarbonise transport". It has committed to the publication of a Transport Decarbonisation Plan in 2020 which will define the policies and plans needed to tackle emissions from transport. The document sets out the challenge, provides a perspective on where we are today and the size of emissions reductions needed. The Government says that a series of events, workshops and opportunities this year will provide the chance for all interested stakeholders to input into the plan.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Transport has a huge role to play in the economy reaching net zero. The scale of the challenge demands a step change in both the breadth and scale of ambition and we have a duty to act quickly and decisively to reduce emissions.

"The associated benefits of bold and ambitious action to tackle transport emissions are also significant. We can improve people's health, create better places to live and travel in, and drive clean economic growth."

Acknowledging in the report that transport is now the largest emitting UK sector of greenhouse gas emissions (28% of UK total), the Government says that it wants to hear from individuals, businesses, trade associations, local authorities, scientists, researchers, innovators, interest groups and environmental groups as we develop the first comprehensive action plan for decarbonising transport.

The Department for Transport (DfT) document says "in the coming months we will work with you to develop the plan, with a vision for how a net zero transport system will benefit us all". It sets out six strategic priorities:

  • Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.
  • From motorcycles to HGVs, all road vehicles will be zero emission. Technological advances, including new modes of transport and mobility innovation, will change the way vehicles are used.
  • Our goods will be delivered through an integrated, efficient and sustainable delivery system.
  • Clean, place-based solutions will meet the needs of local people. Changes and leadership at a local level will make an important contribution to reducing national GHG emissions.
  • The UK will be an internationally recognised leader in environmentally sustainable, lowcarbon technology and innovation in transport.
  • We will lead the development of sustainable biofuels, hybrid and electric aircraft to lessen and remove the impact of aviation on the environment and by 2050, zero emission ships will be commonplace globally."

The Government says that it agrees with the Committee on Climate Change which has stated that whilst it is technically possible to deliver net zero based on “current consumer behaviours and known technologies”, the target will only be credible if policy measures ramp up significantly and urgently.

The document ('Decarbonising Transport - Setting the Challenge') says that "an important aspect of reducing emissions from transport will be to use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.

"This will require changes to people’s behaviours, including encouraging more active travel and the use of public transport, alongside increasing the uptake of zero emission vehicles and new technologies.

"We want public transport and active travel to be the natural first choice for our daily activities...We are already exploring how we can use vehicles differently, such as through shared mobility. New technologies and business models may help facilitate modal shift, such as Mobility as a Service platforms. This will require behavioural changes and we will consider how government and others can support this shift through infrastructure and encouraging those forms of travel."

The DfT says that the document "marks the beginning of a conversation to develop the policies needed to decarbonise transport...As we prepare to host the UN's annual climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow this November, we will publish Transport Decarbonisation Plan which will set out how we intend to transform the movement of people, goods and services to reach net zero."

Commenting on the document, LowCVP's Managing Director, Andy Eastlake said: "With transport now the highest emitting sector of greenhouse gases in the UK, it's vital that we focus all our energies on delivering coherent policies that can deliver a net zero transport system. 

"The six strategic priorities are a helpful way of defining the problem. Now we really need to begin delivering specific plans against each of them. With the current lock-down impacting across so many areas, we have an opportunity to reassess what a Net Zero transport system really looks like and how we can maximise the UK’s opportunities in developing this new paradigm.

"The unique structure of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership will provide a forum for many of these discussions, helping to enable the delivery of a practical, detailed plan by Government later this year and in advance of the vital CoP26 meeting in Glasgow next November." 

Note - related government consultations

In addition to the consultation on the development of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Government is also inviting responses on several related consultations. LowCVP will be engaging with members in order to input to these: 

Future of transport regulatory review: call for evidence on micromobility vehicles, flexible bus services and mobility as a service - deadline 22 May. LINK

Introducing E10 petrol (3 May). LINK (LowCVP News)

Consultation on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans (29 May). LINK

Vehicle Excise Duty call for evidence (3 June). LINK

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