Late last week (March 26), the Department for Transport (DfT) published its Decarbonising Transport Report, outlining priorities that it hopes will put the UK on a path towards a net-zero transport system and consequently improve air quality.
It 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.
Whilst the report suggests we should be driving less often, much of the document focuses on the shift towards electric vehicles (EVs). According to the report, more research is needed in battery technology development, including recycling, charging infrastructure and a greater understanding of the behavioural interventions which would be most effective in increasing the demand for the burgeoning technology.
In 2019, battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations experienced the biggest percentage growth, rising by 144.0% to 37,850 units and overtaking plug-in hybrids for the first time. However, the share of the total market is still tiny and green campaigners have put pressure on the government to do more to encourage people away from diesel or petrol vehicles.
The report outlines that regulations to reduce tailpipe emissions for new cars and vans will remain crucial to reduce pollution now the UK has left the EU. It says it is important to pursue a ‘future approach’ that is at least as ambitious as current EU legislation.
In 2018, buses and coaches represented 3% of domestic transport GHG emissions, but there are currently no government targets for buses. The DfT is encouraging that conventional buses be replaced with zero-emission buses as quickly as possible alongside measures that address the declining bus usage. The government also has plans to create the UK’s first ‘low emission bus town’.
The report calls cycling and walking the ‘ultimate forms’ of zero GHG emission and zero pollution transport and says committed spending on active travel could reduce total car use in England by around 0.9% in 2020.
To do this, the DfT will establish a 350m Cycling Infrastructure Fund to encourage active travel and will create a long term programme and budget to increase investment in cycling and walking.
The chief executive of walking and cycling charity Sustrans, Xavier Brice commented on the report: ‘The future of Government spending plans is of course now uncertain but our future resilience as a society depends on the investment needed to deliver on this challenge.
‘The need is greater than ever for long-term funding of better infrastructure for walking and cycling.
‘It will help make active travel the easiest choice for everyday short trips. And deliver a convenient, cleaner public transport network serving all our communities.’
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