Transport should lead, not lag, in the shift to a net zero carbon UK economy

Transport & Environment UK (T&E UK) warmly welcomes the recommendation of the Climate Change Committee to increase the UK’s ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. This is essential for the UK to show international leadership in the battle to prevent dangerous climate change and it can help secure enormous economic opportunities.

T&E’s own analysis supports that of the committee. While transport is currently the UK’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and a laggard in cutting emissions, this can be quickly and radically reduced through electrification of vehicles and a shift to renewable fuels in shipping and aviation. The transformation can put UK business at the forefront of new emerging global markets for sustainable mobility.

The committee’s recommendation that the last new car with an engine should ideally be sold by 2030 is sound and achievable and is supported by T&E’s own analysis. Battery electric cars are expected to have similar costs to those with engines by the early to mid-2020s, initiating a fast market transformation. Sales are currently being suppressed by the limited availability of electric models but this is expected to improve quickly in the next year, driven by EU regulations. Electric vehicles charged with renewable electricity and complemented by measures to encourage public transport and other shared vehicles, cycling and walking can eliminate car emissions entirely.

Greg Archer, UK director of T&E, said: “The report and recommendations are based on a robust analysis of the potential of emerging technologies, like electric cars. Existing government plans to phase out some cars with engines by 2040 are too little too late and the committee’s proposal to end sales of cars with engines by 2030-35 are spot-on. The UK government now needs to back the vision and put in place the framework that enables UK businesses to lead the transition. It should start by increasing taxes on new gas guzzlers to fund tax breaks for zero-emission cars and investments in recharging.”

The committee report also identified the potential for hydrogen and electric trucks, which T&E strongly supports. The roll-out of pilot schemes to test the viability of credible options should begin quickly. T&E also welcomes the proposals for electric, ammonia and hydrogen-powered ships and encourages the government to be ambitious in its forthcoming Clean Maritime Strategy and support slow steaming.

The Climate Change Committee was more cautious about the potential for decarbonised synthetic fuels in aviation. However, T&E analysis shows these fuels – made from CO2 captured from the air combined with renewable hydrogen – represent the only practical solution to decarbonise aviation in the long term and should replace ineffective offsetting schemes proposed by the industry (Corsia), or schemes that encourage use of biofuels in aviation that lead to counterproductive land-use change. In the short term unfair tax breaks and subsidies should end and a frequent flier levy should be implemented to manage demand for aviation by raising ticket prices.

Greg Archer concluded: “Transport is the UK’s biggest climate criminal and must be decarbonised as part of measures to achieve net carbon emissions. There are a wealth of technology solutions that could reverse rising emissions. The UK government must now acknowledge their is a climate emergency and begin to put in place the plans to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. The race to capture the market for zero emissions technologies is on and for the UK this could be a winner.”

Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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