Road to Zero: Green economy reacts as Government unveils EV strategy
While the Government's much-awaited Road to Zero strategy has been hailed by some members of the green economy as a "positive first step" towards the 2040 phase-out of diesel and petrol vehicles, critics have voiced disappointment that it did not commit to bringing the ban forward.
The 46-step plan, which details how the UK Government will invest £1.5bn into electric vehicle (EV) research, development and infrastructure, was presented to Parliament today (June 9) after a string of delays.
The much-anticipated strategy sets out how the Government intends to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, highlighting low-carbon fuels and hybrid vehicles as solutions to bridge the transition in the meantime.
It also sets an interim target of ensuring more than half of new car sales and 40% of new van sales are ultra-low emission by 2030. A £400m fund for companies wanting to improve their charging infrastructure was also introduced to help improve the UK’s charging infrastructure.
Despite Transport Secretary Chris Grayling claiming that the strategy would “put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles”, several climate groups and businesses have expressed concerns that the strategy did not bring the phase-out of petrol and diesel sales forward.
WWF and think tank IPPR previously claimed moving the phase-out to 2030 would cut air pollution levels by almost a third (30%) and potentially “boost the UK’s economy by up to £3bn”.
Commenting on the Road to Zero strategy, WWF’s head of climate and energy Gareth Redmond-King, said: “While countries across the world raise ambition on electric vehicles and clean transport, the UK Government is aiming for just half of new car sales to be low-emission in 12 years.
“This shows a failure of climate leadership and ambition to clean up our air.”
Redmond-King added that the UK would not become a global leader in clean and smart transport unless it promised “bigger and bolder” action, such as a revised 2030 deadline, before the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in September.
Similarly, the Aldersgate Group said the phase-out would have to come “far ahead of 2040” if the UK is to meet its fifth carbon budget, with executive director Nick Molho claiming that transport emissions need to be cut by almost half (46%) to meet the goal.
“With transport now the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gases across the UK economy, the publication of the government’s Road to Zero Strategy should mark an important milestone in the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change and boost clean growth,” Molho said.
“However, despite welcome measures to support the rollout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and innovation, this strategy fails to support the rapid pace of change that is needed to deliver climate targets and put the UK at the forefront of the global clean vehicles market.”
Molho concluded that while the newly announced charging infrastructure measures would help to make UK businesses “amongst the best placed” to capitalise on the EV revolution, the shift to low-emission vehicles should be made sooner.
Nonetheless, the strategy received praise from the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and motoring charity RAC, with the REA’s head of policy and external affairs, James Court, dubbing it a “very encouraging starting point”.
Court said that the funding and new regulations outlined for home, work and motorway charging would help overcome “one of the biggest hurdles for consumers” but added that new infrastructure should include smart chargers which offer flexibility to motorists and the grid.
The move to increase the number of EV charge points was also welcomed by the AA, which has previously warned that growth in electric car use could be stalled by shortcomings in the public charging network.
Elsewhere, Labour’s London Assembly spokesperson for the environment, Leonie Cooper criticised the Government’s plans to incorporate hybrid vehicles as part of its transition to a low-carbon transport sector.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Government have conceded to keeping hybrids on the roads, which waters down their already inadequate target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040,” Cooper said.
“We urgently need the Government to stop dragging their feet and put the measures in place to push through the wholesale transition to electric vehicles. With thousands of Londoners dying prematurely every year due to air pollution, we need much stronger assurances that the Government are serious about taking the most polluting vehicles off our roads.”