‘Clarity and confidence for the road ahead’: Green economy reacts to Transport Decarbonisation Plan

The UK Government's Transport Decarbonisation Plan is set for publication today (14 July), outlining plans to align all domestic travel and logistics with the national net-zero target. Here, we round up the reaction to this policy package from thought leaders and key organisations across the green economy.

‘Clarity and confidence for the road ahead’: Green economy reacts to Transport Decarbonisation Plan

The Plan was originally due out in late 2020 but was delayed amid Covid-19 and

Published following months of delays, the Plan outlines the Government’s approach, in terms of timings and technologies, to decarbonising the UK’s highest-emitting sector – transport. It covers all domestic forms of transport, including road, rail, shipping and flights, but international shipping and aviation are not covered.

There are commitments to end the sale of new petrol and diesel heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses by 2040, subject to consultation; to electrify the Government’s own fleet by 2027 and to accelerate spending on public transport and active travel. Also detailed are plans to bring the aviation sector’s emissions to net-zero by 2050 without capping growth, with an ambition to enshrine an earlier 2040 target in law for domestic aviation and airport buildings and operations in England.

You can read edie’s initial news story covering the Plan’s publication for more information on what is included.

Here, we round up all the reaction to the new Plan from the Department for Transport (DfT), outlining what key groups and individuals from across the UK’s green economy make of the policy package.

The Aldersgate Group’s head of policy Ana Musat said: “The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is an important milestone, setting out a comprehensive blueprint to cut emissions across all modes of transport and boost active travel. It is particularly welcome to see the proposal to phase out petrol and diesel trucks by 2040, which will play a key role in helping grow supply chains for EVs and secure a level playing field for those already investing in low carbon mobility solutions.
“The Government’s commitment to electrify its fleet by 2027, bolstered by similar commitments from other businesses across the UK, is an important way to grow demand and offer confidence to manufacturers. The ‘ZEV mandate’ is another promising policy lever, which has successfully grown the market in California and China, and consulting with industry on how best to implement that in the UK is a promising move.

“We now need to ensure that the transition to electric mobility is just and benefits everyone. To achieve this, good charging infrastructure needs to be in place across the country, so that those without off-street parking and fleet drivers are able to conveniently charge their vehicles. This is why the delivery of chargepoints must become a national infrastructure priority, led by central government, with increased levels of coordination between local authorities. Currently, investors in public charging infrastructure in particular, have to understand the different costs and planning requirements from different local authorities, which can act as a barrier to infrastructure development.
“In addition, measures to ensure electric vehicles and trucks are financially accessible will be essential. The Plug-in Grant is key in reducing upfront cost, but other measures, including zero-interest loans for EVs like those available in Scotland, and policies to grow the market and boost consumer confidence in second-hand EVs, will need to be developed.”

Green Alliance’s head of climate policy Caterina Brandmayr said: “It’s very encouraging to see the plan recognising the breadth of action needed to cut emissions from transport as well as deliver cleaner air, reduce congestion and boost jobs in new low-carbon industries. The step-up in ambition to ban the sale of all new polluting vehicles, beyond cars and vans, by 2040, is vital to address the largest source of transport emissions.

“We now need a range of concrete measures, including a mandate on manufacturers to sell clean vehicles, and clear interim targets to accelerate emission cuts across all parts of the country and put the sector firmly on track for net-zero. The Treasury must play its part to support the transition and make clean transport the default choice for people and business.”

NewAutomotive’s head of policy Ben Nelmes said: “We welcome the news that the Government plans to consider introducing a zero-emissions vehicle mandate for car manufacturers to make a certain percentage of their cars electric vehicles (EVs). Our analysis shows that the current arrangements are not working – they’re rewarding companies for producing hybrids instead of fully net-zero electric vehicles. The system needs to be reformed, and a California-style arrangement is a sensible approach.

“It’s vital that the scheme rewards companies for producing fully zero-emission electric vehicles, rather than relying on steadily decreasing average CO2 targets for manufacturers, so that businesses and investors have the confidence to invest in more battery production and so that we’re celebrating more Nissan-style investment announcements.”

National Grid’s head of future markets Graeme Cooper said: “This is the first zero-emissions transport mandate for a major economy and is a great opportunity ahead of COP26 to show the UK’s commitment to clean transport and clean air. The Government has already committed significant investment for EV charging infrastructure, and today’s announcement will be a further boost, giving the industry and consumers clarity and confidence for the road ahead, not just for cars but other forms of transport too, including HGVs. 

“To successfully deliver these outcomes, it is essential that transport and energy networks work together to ensure the delivery of the most efficient network solution and make the most efficient use of the funding available. If we’re going to put in the right investment for decarbonising transport, let’s do it right and futureproof for the long-term.”

National Grid’s long-term strategy manager Danielle Stewart said: “Hydrogen has a key role to play in supporting the transport sector to meet net-zero. For HGVs, biomethane can help reduce emissions while hydrogen technology advances and scales. To enable the transition, policymakers, infrastructure providers, vehicle manufacturers and the supply chain will need to act quickly, working together to realise the benefits of green gases alongside other zero-carbon solutions.”

Logistics UK’s director of policy Elizabeth de Jong said: “The Transport Decarbonisation Plan will help to provide logistics businesses with confidence and clarity on the steps they must take on the pathway to net-zero. Consultation on proposed phase-out dates for new diesel HGVs should enable business to move forwards with confidence. Rail, shipping and aviation are all essential parts of logistics, so plans to support freight modal shift and develop technologies to reduce emissions across these modes are welcome.”

Transport & Environment’s UK director Greg Archer said: “This plan is a milestone in the shift to a more sustainable UK transport system. The decision to only use zero-emission road vehicles – including trucks – by 2050 is world-leading and will significantly reduce Britain’s climate impact and improve the air we breathe. This complements the goal of net-zero internal UK flights by 2040, although there is much more to do to tackle international aviation emissions.”

Green Angel Syndicate chief executive Nick Lyth said: “If the Transport Decarbonisation Strategy can be adapted to help stimulate the rapid pace of innovation and reflect the urgency of the climate crisis, it should be possible to bring these targets forward. This is vital. The Strategy, as it stands, is not sufficiently ambitious.”

IPPR’s lead for the Environmental Justice Commission Luke Murphy said: “The Government’s proposals to phase out the sale of new diesel and petrol HGVs are welcome, as is the consultation on a potential industry mandate for zero-emission vehicles.

“However, though we await the detail, there appears to be little additional funding to support the switch to more affordable and clean transport alternatives to cut overall car use. This would be a missed opportunity to put in place a new approach to how we all travel, with solutions benefiting wellbeing, health and environment.

“We need to massively expand the provision of and affordability of clean public transport options, such as trains, buses and trams, while helping more people to regularly walk and cycle, alongside a shift to electric vehicles for those that need them. We also need to see a firm commitment from the government to review the £27bn roads programme, including schemes that are currently planned as well as future ones.

“The Environmental Justice Commission’s report, out today, calls for a significant step-change in investment to upgrade local public transport and make it free to all users throughout the UK by 2030, with free bus travel by 2025 as a first step.”

Centrica Group’s chief executive Chris O’Shea said: “As an organisation that has committed to a fully electrified fleet by 2025, the Government’s introduction of plans to mandate EV production in the UK is music to our ears.

“In addition, while there are some positive steps around charging infrastructure in the plan, we feel it’s absolutely vital that large sections of society aren’t left behind simply because they don’t have a driveway. We need to see a substantial increase of on-street chargers in built-up areas, chargepoints at work and leisure destinations, and rapid charging across the UK’s motorway network.

“It’s vital that Government and business work together to deliver a cleaner transport network that’s both affordable and convenient for consumers.”

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Green Transport Kerry McCarthy, said:“Instead of putting its foot on the accelerator, the Government is still stalling when it comes to the tough decisions needed to tackle transport emissions.

“Plans to decarbonise rail and aviation are long overdue – so why is the Government allowing rail fares to rise and why is it failing to prioritise a sectoral deal for aviation conditional on climate action? Why, despite its promises on EVs, has the government cut plug-in grants and what is it going to do to provide the nationwide network of public charging points that we need? At a time when we should be showing global leadership and pressing ahead with this agenda, it’s clear Ministers still have a long way to go.”

CBI’s chief UK policy director Michael Fell said: “Phase-out dates for polluting vehicles across road, rail and aerospace will send an important signal to markets and investors. These must be backed up with credible plans to accelerate the development of clean technologies like hydrogen and Sustainable Aviation Fuels, as well as a comprehensive plan for rolling out charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“The plan rightly recognises the importance of greener commutes through a modal shift, with investment in active travel and public transport networks being positive steps for businesses looking to lower their carbon footprints.

“Decarbonising transport is a major part of transitioning our whole economy to net zero within 30 years. Businesses will hope this plan is followed swiftly by a Heat and Buildings Strategy, a Hydrogen Strategy and an overarching Net Zero plan – all promised to be delivered ahead of COP26 in November.”

Delta-EE’s director Andy Bradley said: The Government is committing to do something that the main [auto] manufacturers have already said they will do. We expect the UK to exceed 95% plug-in car sales by 2030 and the government should focus its policy initiatives on supporting the infrastructure build-out rather than making headline-grabbing announcements about banning ICE van sales by 2040. The policy seems to be one stick with no carrots.”

Ohme’s chief executive and founder David Watson said: “Legislation to ensure all private EV chargepoints meet smart charging standards is a step in the right direction, but simply declaring something as ‘smart’ isn’t enough. 

“To ensure these technologies are adopted at scale, we need to see a holistic approach to smart charging to manage the spikes in demand due to mass EV adoption. This must include incentives for consumers, businesses and fleets, in addition to education and awareness campaigns, and greater collaboration between the Government, energy companies and cleantech companies.” 

Tevva’s founder and chief executive Asher Bennett said: “The Government’s proposal to ban the sale of smaller diesel trucks from 2035 and larger ones from 2040 as part of its Transport Decarbonisation Plan is the right course of action given that HGVs account for around 18% of road transport emissions in the UK.

“However, it is now critical for investors and government to back electric truck solutions which meet the unique needs of fleet operators in an economically viable way. Unlike cars, which are used on average for 1.5 hours per day and buses that run on dedicated routes, freight trucks face different challenges when it comes to electrification, such as the requirement to work eight to 12 hours per day across varied routes, environments and distances. Not every electric truck manufacturer on the market has considered this requirement, creating a potentially expensive problem for fleet operators further down the line.”

The Energy Networks Association’s director of innovation Randolph Brazier said: “As part of the green recovery, the electricity networks are accelerating £300m of expenditure in the next few years to speed up the rollout of projects like EV charging points.

“There’s also a much bigger role to play for hydrogen in enabling cleaner heavy transportation on our roads, rail, seas and skies in the future. Investment is what’s needed – but we can’t wait to make that investment ‘just in time’, we need to be making bold decisions and start laying the groundwork now.”

AFC Energy’s chief executive Adam Bond said: “AFC Energy strongly welcomes the Government’s plans to decarbonise domestic travel by 2050 but a far more detailed roadmap is needed on how the UK’s power grid infrastructure, particularly those local grids already under significant strain, will deliver the extra electricity required without any future reliance on fossil fuels as its primary power source.  Without this detail, the UK runs the risk of not getting close to meeting its ambitious targets.”

Ramboll’s director of City Economics Stefanie O’Gorman said: “Setting the world-leading target of banning all polluting vehicles by 2050 is certainly a bold and decisive step, but the Government needs to be careful to with such a blanket policy approach to decarbonising transport. To make a real difference to people’s attitudes towards cars and transport, solutions need to be tailored to the needs of individual regions and populations. Without a carefully thought-out approach, these ambitious targets could be difficult to deliver.

“It’s vital that the government doesn’t adopt a tunnel vision approach to the electrification of the transport sector. EVs, both personal and public, are an improvement over diesel and petrol counterparts but they are not a silver bullet solution. The government must avoid putting all its eggs into the EV basket and go further than paying lip service to decarbonising transport.

“The Government will need to take a ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Road user charging is one such potential ‘stick’. We urgently need to open up a public discourse on a ‘polluter pays’ model, as a pay-as-you-go principle for road charging. It’s time to get the conversation started.

“Not giving greater emphasis to the vital part that micro-mobility has to play in decarbonising transport is a missed opportunity. We must expand positive transport options across the country, prioritising people-friendly, place-based solutions.”

KPMG UK’s vice chair and  head of energy and natural resources Simon Virley said:  

“Transport emissions now account for a greater share of total UK greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector of the economy, so the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan is hugely important if the UK is to get to net-zero. 

“There is a heavy emphasis in the plan on future standards and technology innovation to reduce emissions in the road, rail, aviation and marine sectors. The Government is hoping that, by banning petrol and diesel truck sales from 2040, or setting a target for net-zero aviation by 2040, the supply chain will respond with alternative low carbon fuel types. To back this up, it plans to introduce a new Zero Emission Credits scheme for vehicle manufacturers.  

“These supply-side measures will be important.  But what is noticeable is the absence of measures to reduce demand, such as road pricing, or use of green taxes to encourage consumers to switch to low carbon alternatives. This stands in contrast to the EU Green Deal plans, also published today, which envisage a much greater role for green taxes to reduce pollution, including new levies on aviation fuels and a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which is effectively a carbon tax on imported goods from high emission countries.”

The UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association’s chief executive Celia Greaves said: “Industry and Government both recognise that hydrogen and fuel cells can help to decarbonise HGVs, aviation, buses and rail on a large scale.

“As the Strategy details, the UK is well-placed internationally to develop and deploy hydrogen-based transport solutions for both our own decarbonisation needs and to supply overseas markets. But for this to happen, the right environment needs to be created for industry to grow. Investment needs to be made in scaling up / deploying hydrogen infrastructure and transport, developing the workforce (through a long-term plan for STEM skills and training) and stimulating innovation, particularly in heavy modes. 

“f this takes place quickly and at scale, hydrogen and fuel cell technology will be able to help the Government achieve its ambitious targets. Without such support for hydrogen and fuel cells, many of the Government’s ambitions when it comes to the decarbonisation of transport will be in danger of being missed.”

Haskel’s general manager for Europe and hydrogen systems Darran Heath said: “Quite rightly, the Government has noted that the UK is blessed with world-leading centres which can test hydrogen’s ability to make carbon-free transport a reality, whether that’s in cars, vans, buses or trains.

“It’s difficult to underplay the importance of developing a supportive hydrogen ecosystem for transport, particularly for the target of banning sales of all petrol and diesel HGVs by 2040. For vehicles with high power requirements and high utilisation, like buses and trucks, battery technology will not be sufficient and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the practical choice.

“While playing up a technology-agnostic approach to decarbonising transport, this plan absolutely underlines the importance of hydrogen fuel cell in major transportation segments: £20 m pounds this year to support the development of zero-emission HGVs and the refuelling infrastructure, investment in UK supply chains which will be fundamental to the long-term stability of the country’s hydrogen-powered logistics sector, huge support for getting zero-emission buses on the road, boosting green manufacturing around buses and targeting the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled trains.     

“Municipalities and organisations across the country should be seriously considering how they will design and manage their hydrogen refuelling infrastructure so that it’s fit-for-purpose by 2030 at the latest to handle the necessary scaling up.”

The Nuclear Industry Association’s chief executive Tom Greatrex said: “It is disappointing to see no mention of nuclear’s role in decarbonising electricity for zero-emission vehicles. 

“Nuclear should also be at the centre of zero-carbon hydrogen production, which will play an increasingly important role in the clean energy transition for transport. Nuclear could produce one-third of the UK’s clean hydrogen needs by 2050, which, alongside other clean energy routes, will enable a plentiful supply to fuel our future economy.”

Join the conversation at edie’s Clean Energy & Transport Forum

On Thursday, July 15, edie is hosting its first Clean Energy and Transport Forum

Linking to the two key COP26 themes of Clean Energy and Clean Transport, this brand new virtual conference will explore what it will take to deliver the net-zero transition in these key sectors.

The Department for Transport’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Rachel Maclean has been confirmed as one of the keynote speakers, alongside Energy Institute chief executive Nick Wayth; The Climate Group chief executive Helen Clarkson and Innovate UK senior Innovation lead Harsh Pershad.

Click here for a full agenda and to register for the Clean Energy and Transport Forum. 

edie Staff

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    We hear a great deal about plans for EVs and the installation of a charging network, but I cannot recall reading of any plans to build generation plant for all the extra electrical demand.
    This infrastructure is a long time in the planning as well as construction, and, seemingly, a lot of it will be needed.
    What is planned for the power generation for all the electricity needed, gas (easy), nuclear perhaps, it would be nice to hear the thoughts!
    Richard Phillips

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