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News 16 October 2019 Updated 3 November 2020

New transport decarbonisation plan – 2050 zero emissions target

Announced in the Leading on Clean Growth report on 15 October 2019, in response to recommendations made by the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s new Transport Decarbonisation Plan aims to end UK’s transport emissions by 2050. Due for publication  next year, the plan should provide much-needed detail of what government, businesses and society must do in order to reduce significant emissions from all modes of transport.

Four months ago, the UK pledged to reach net zero emissions across all sectors of the economy by 2050. The government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, have told the government that getting us on track to hitting that target will require transformational change across all sectors of the economy. The Transport Decarbonisation Plan will provide details on how policy will deliver that transformation in the transport sector.

Transport is now the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK accounting for 27% of the total. The majority of these emissions come from passenger cars, international aviation and heavy goods vehicles. The new decarbonisation plan will focus on how the UK can make the most of technology and innovation to change the way people and goods move around the country.

Head of transport at Energy Saving Trust Tim Anderson commented: “As the Government adopts a bolder, more ambitious approach to achieving decarbonisation targets in transport, the Energy Saving Trust will be working hard to support this work by supporting businesses, public sector organisations and individuals to reduce their carbon emissions.

“The net zero target will require creativity, ambition and commitment across all transport sectors. As a key delivery partner to the UK Government, Energy Saving Trust is ready to deliver innovative programmes to support this transition. We will be collaborative with all stakeholders to deliver decarbonisation at increased pace”.

Decarbonisation already underway

Over recent decades, policy actions and technology improvements have made most transport options less carbon-intensive. But over the same time period, people have been travelling more and more goods are being moved: the net result has been that overall UK carbon emissions from transport have been effectively stable since 1990.

The challenge now is to see a rapid decarbonisation. The switch to ultra low or zero emission, particularly electric vehicles, is a key part of meeting that challenge, as is changing the way we travel – for example encouraging commuters to walk or cycle to work. Meanwhile, technologies around the corner such as autonomous vehicles offer the potential for even more radical, low carbon changes to the way we travel.

The government has already announced a series of new funding streams since unveiling the Road to Zero strategy just over a year ago, aimed at accelerating the adoption of ultra low emission vehicles. For example, earlier this year, £48 million was dedicated to 263 new ultra low emission buses across the UK.

Most recently, consultations proposed all future homes and commercial buildings should be equipped with smart electric vehicle chargepoints, and all rapid chargepoints to offer a ‘pay as you go’ functionality.  And the government has announced up to £1 billion additional funding to develop and embed automotive technologies, as well as further research and development to support this sector.

Nonetheless the government has stated that it recognises the urgent need to step up “the pace of progress to ensure that the transport sector plays its part in supporting the delivery of the UK’s emissions reduction targets.”

A holistic view

Building from last years Road to Zero strategy (focusing on road transport) and equivalent policy plans for the aviation and shipping sectors, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan will look across different modes of transport, taking a holistic view.

It will also focus on how we change transport choices and carbon emissions by considering on the way we design places – looking at where carbon emissions occur. The plan will also discuss making better use of data, for example in regard to the “mapping of transport emissions, so that people can more easily monitor the carbon footprint associated with their journeys and make more informed travel choices.”

Energy Saving Trust works with a number of businesses and local authorities around the UK to promote the implementation of charging infrastructure. We also promote the transition to efficient and low-carbon HGVs and business fleets, as part of our fleet support consultancy. In addition, we administer grants and loans to promote the uptake of low carbon vehicles, including electric cars, vans and eBikes on behalf of the UK and Scottish Governments.

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Last updated: 3 November 2020