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Transport decarbonisation plan published by UK Government

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has unveiled the UK’s transport decarbonisation plan, providing a “greenprint” to cut emissions from our seas and skies, roads and railways, and set out a credible pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net zero by 2050.

The development of the clean transport sector is expected to create and support a considerable number of highly skilled jobs, with the production of zero emission road vehicles alone having the potential to support tens of thousands of jobs worth up to £9.7 billion GVA in 2050.

As part of the strategy the government has announced its intention to phase out the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) by 2040 – subject to consultation. This combined with the 2035 phase out date for new petrol/diesel cars and vans represents a pledge to phase out all polluting road vehicles within the next 2 decades. The consultation proposes a 2035 phase out date for vehicles weighing from 3.5 to 26 tonnes and 2040 for vehicles weighing more than 26 tonnes – or earlier if a faster transition seems feasible.

The Transport decarbonisation plan also sets out how the government will improve public transport and increase support for active travel to make them the natural first choice for all who can take them – creating a net zero rail network by 2050, ensuring net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040 and leading the transition to green shipping.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“Transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good or for bad. Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.

“It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero emission cars.

“The Transport decarbonisation plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities as we build back greener.”

Accompanying this commitment are a green paper, setting out the regulatory framework requiring vehicle manufacturers to improve the fuel efficiency of new cars, vans and HGVs, and a 2035 delivery plan, which brings together all of the measures for decarbonising cars and vans, from across government, into a single document. It outlines the key timelines, milestones and how progress towards the commitment to deliver mass ownership of zero emission cars and vans will be monitored.

Reacting to the announcement, Andy Eastlake, Chief Executive of the Zemo Partnership, said:

“The clear commitment to move all our road vehicles to zero emissions is critical, but even more important is the appetite to think differently about how this can be delivered.

“Transport is perhaps one of the most emotive and complex areas of our lives and society, but zero tailpipe emission transport technology is already here. How we make this the default everywhere while also reducing overall demand for energy and other resources is the real challenge.

“It’s therefore encouraging to see that the plan considers fiscal, behavioral, digital and other policy options as the exciting technology and energy revolutions gather pace. How effectively we can work collaboratively across sectors to bring all these together will be a true test of success of this plan.”

“The Plan is wide-ranging and detailed, encompassing a plethora of approaches and opening a range of questions and consultations about transport decarbonisation.

Paul Thompson, Head of Renewable Transport Fuels at the REA, said:

“The REA is delighted that the government has listened to our representations and will bring in a 5% increase for the RTFO targets by 2032. We have been urging the government to introduce the higher target and welcome the determination to ensure the various changes are in place by 1 January 2022.

“We also welcome, in principle, the government’s support for RCFs where these can be shown to deliver real carbon savings.”

“The Transport Decarbonisation Plan represents important progress for the renewable fuels sector. We are pleased that the government intends to put together a low carbon fuel strategy as clarity is urgently needed on the long-term approach if we are to unlock the investments needed in fuels production and infrastructure.

“We also note the intention to work to maximise savings from fuels in the short and medium-term. This is essential, even in sectors where the solutions in the future are expected to be battery electric or hydrogen powered. We cannot allow these long-term prospects to become an excuse for inaction in the meantime.”

Energy UK’s chief executive, Emma Pinchbeck said:

“We welcome the publication of the transport decarbonisation plan; there is a global race to decarbonise transport and we want the UK to be in the driving seat for the transition.

“We support the Government’s proposals for a Zero Emission Vehicles Mandate and improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles, two of the key recommendations in our recent report, because they will help more people to make the switch to electric cars and reduce emissions from the remaining fleet.

“The strategy proposes to introduce legislation on smart electric vehicle charging, and this would be welcome as it will help keep energy bills low for people who are transitioning to using electric vehicles.

“Decarbonising transport is crucial to ensuring the UK meets its Net Zero target while delivering cleaner air and benefits to consumers, communities and the economy. What we need now from Government is the policies to deliver all this – and to make sure that we can all benefit from the future green economy.”

The Transport decarbonisation plan can be viewed in full on the government’s website.


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