Transport and the UK general election

June 10, 2024

For the next Government, the need to tackle climate change is more pressing than ever and transport is the highest-emitting sector

29% of UK CO2 emissions come from transport

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Transport emissions in the UK are the biggest contributor to the UK’s carbon emissions, standing at 29% of the total share. Transport will increasingly be a sector where emissions reductions are needed to stay within legally binding carbon budgets.

The zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate is the biggest single carbon-cutting policy in the government’s arsenal but has faced a sustained campaign of opposition from some media. We need to ensure that the policy is delivered, that manufacturers can hit their targets and that the public feels confident in making the transition.

While the ZEV mandate is in place and applies to vans as well, progress on cutting van emissions is not going fast enough. Emissions from vans have increased 62% since 1990.

Trucks comprise just under a fifth of all UK transport emissions. Battery electric HGVs will be able to meet the vast majority of uses but uncertainty about whether hydrogen fuel cell or batteries will meet a few marginal uses has slowed up setting a framework for HGV decarbonisation.

From 2033, carbon budgets will for the first time include international shipping and aviation (as well as for the first time being set in line with the 2050 net zero target). In part this will require a shift to fuels based on hydrogen and the policy framework for this needs to be set in the next parliament. If shipping and aviation emissions are not reduced, other parts of the economy will need to cut their emissions more quickly.

Decarbonising transport provides huge opportunities for UK industry. Already, UK leadership and policy certainty on electric vehicles has meant the UK has attracted the most investment in electric vehicle manufacturing, supply chain and charging in recent years. Ambition and policy certainty is needed for other transport sectors like HGVs, shipping and aviation.

The UK has a good track record in cutting emissions in the power sector and is on course to decarbonise the grid by the early 2030s. Now, the policy focus of the government needs to turn to decarbonising transport - the biggest climate challenge for the next government.

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