CCC: Government’s Road to Zero strategy not ambitious enough

The UK Government's official climate change watchdog has warned ministers that the new Road to Zero strategy will not be sufficient to meet national and international climate targets.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Business Secretary Greg Clark, the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) chairman Lord Deben said the plan would leave the UK struggling to meet its Fifth Carbon Budget.

The letter, sent on Thursday (11 October), accuses ministers of excluding some of the most “cost-effective” measures to cut road transport emissions from the strategy, such as providing financial support to domestic and business customers seeking to purchase electric vehicles (EVs) after 2020.

The 15-page document additionally urges the Government to bring its 2040 phase-out of new petrol and diesel car sales forward by five years to 2035 – a move Deben claims could bring about a “near zero-emission” road transport sector by 2050.

“Overall, our assessment of existing and newly agreed policies for road transport is that they are insufficient to ensure the reductions in emissions necessary to meet the fifth Carbon Budget in the most cost-effective way,” Deben wrote.

“Almost all scenarios failed to include the policies and ambitions in Road to Zero, resulting in levels of electric vehicle uptake that fall short of the targets required to deliver the commitments in the Climate Change Act.”

The letter also recommends that the Government should introduce a legally-binding minimum EV charge range for automakers, set “stretching” emissions targets for new cars, and extend subsidies for EV grants beyond 2020.

Deben added that scenarios which support the delivery of legally-binding carbon budgets “should be used as central planning assumptions”, after the latest CCC figures revealed that transport was the UK’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sector last year, accounting for 28% of national emissions.

Growing concerns

Deben’s warning comes after WWF’s head of climate and energy Gareth Redmond-King said that Road to Zero showed a “failure of climate leadership”, with similar concerns being expressed by the likes of the Aldersgate Group.

The letter also coincides with the Government’s announcement that it will reduce its existing grant for EV buyers by up to £1,000 per customer while removing some plug-in hybrid-electric models from the scheme altogether.

The Department for Transport (DfT) today (12 October) confirmed that the changes would come into effect for the Plug-In Car Grant (PICG) scheme from 9 November.

Under the changes, cars with a range of less than 69 miles per charge will no longer be eligible for the grant, while those which emit less than 50g of CO2 per kilometre travelled will have grants cut from £4,500 to £3,500. Vans and motorcycles will not be affected.

The DfT said in a statement that the move was designed to ensure that its budget was used to spur the uptake of the cleanest new cars.

“The PICG has helped the plug-in hybrid market become more established, and the Government will now focus its support on zero-emission models like pure electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars,” the statement reads.

“With plug-in hybrid models like the Mitsubishi Outlander becoming popular among consumers the Government is focussing its attention to zero-emission models such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.”

Sarah George

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