Olly Frankland and Silvia Mills highlight key points in a new government report setting out the pathway to a transport decarbonisation plan, due in the Autumn.
In a positive sign that departments are keen to continue developing policy during the COVID–19 crisis, the government released a report that sets out the background and pathway to a transport decarbonisation plan, due in the Autumn. Some commentators were expecting the full plan to be released by the end of March following hints from policymakers in recent weeks. However, the report is more of a consultation than a plan and includes several options for people to engage in policy options.
Whilst there were no new policy announcements, the report does provide a useful overview of the recent changes in the Budget and an up-to-date assessment of the key policy areas. It also highlights the dramatic change needed to meet our net zero emission target.
Progress of EVs
The report examines the current state of the supply of electric vehicles in the UK: “Supply is starting to increase, and we expect to see around 20 new models available in the UK in 2020. Battery prices, a large part of the current total cost of EVs, have fallen almost 80% since 2010”. However, though batteries are decreasing in price, they are increasing in size to improve the range, so we aren’t immediately likely to see this cost reduction reflected in EV prices.
Access to charging points, at home and on the road, is essential for our transition to a net zero transportation system. The report highlights the investment the government announced in the Budget in March, including a new £500 million fund for rapid charging and a comprehensive review of electric vehicle charging infrastructure (which you can read about here). We will be discussing these points and more at our upcoming free webinar on ultra-rapid charging hubs – register here.
As an organisation based in Devon and working nationally, we understand the importance of chargepoints being available in rural areas, where commercial models are unlikely to venture – there is no mention of this in the report.
The government has followed EU policy to provide strong regulatory pressure on manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions from new vehicles: “The regulation sets binding CO2 emission reduction targets for new cars of 15% by 2025 and 37.5% by 2030 (based on a 2021 baseline). Manufacturers face fines for non-compliance.” They have already confirmed that this will apply after Brexit.
Forthcoming government announcements include: a response to their consultations on chargepoints in new homes, smart charging and green number plates to raise the profile of cleaner vehicles.
Transportation of goods: vans, HGVs and lorries
Figure 5, found in the report, shows the large rise in the miles and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions derived from vans. The reliance people have on home deliveries, particularly acute in our current lockdown conditions, is one of the key sources of this increase.
Decarbonising van transport in the UK is an important goal and the government has sets out some policies to deliver this: “The Plug-in Van Grant (PIVG) provides 20% of the price of a qualifying vehicle to a maximum grant amount of £8,000, or £20,000 for the first 200 large vans (3.5 tonne +) or trucks.”
Policies are also focused on vehicle manufacturers: “New van CO2 emission reductions regulations came into effect on 1 January 2020 setting targets out to 2030 which apply in the UK. The regulation sets binding CO2 emission reduction targets for new vans of 15% by 2025 and 31% by 2030 (based on a 2021 baseline). Manufacturers face fines for non-compliance.” This is a big step in the right direction for such a large and growing contributor to GHG emissions.
Similar targets are being set for HGVs: “New Heavy Duty Vehicle (HDV) CO2 emission standards regulation came into effect in July 2019. This establishes, for the first time, CO2 reduction targets for HDVs. The new regulation sets binding CO2 emission reduction targets for HDV manufacturers of 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.”
The government is also providing grants to encourage using rail over lorries for the transportation of goods. They estimate that this will remove over 900,000 journeys a year from British roads.
Aviation is a difficult area to decarbonise and while the UK government are certainly accountable for addressing the emissions from internal flights, international flights are less simple. The government’s approach is something of a fudge which could be summarised as – we aren’t including international travel in carbon budgets, except we sort of are: “Domestic aviation emissions are included in the UK’s carbon budgets with international aviation and shipping emissions accounted for via “headroom” within our existing carbon budgets, meaning that the UK can remain on the right trajectory for net zero global greenhouse gas emissions across the whole economy.”
The report goes on to say that the burden of reducing emissions from international aviation is on the sector, rather than each individual states. With this in mind the UK has volunteered to join CORSIA, an offsetting scheme that has received a large amount of criticism for its failure to set long-term goals, its lack of transparency and what it designates as “CORSIA-eligible” fuels1.
Having left the European Union, we are no longer part of the EU Emissions Training System (ETS). However, “the UK committed in its 2017 Clean Growth Strategy that is future approach would be at least as ambitious as the EU ETS and provide a smooth transition for relevant sectors.” Time will tell what they mean by “a smooth transition”.
Active travel and public transport
There is a lot of positive talk on electric buses, walking and cycling in the report. With a welcome focus on, “accelerating a modal shift to public and active transport”.
Actual policy measures include, ‘Future Transport Zones’ (FTZs), that aim to incentivise mass transit/active travel in order to create a functioning marketplace for sustainable mobility.
GHG emission projections
There is an acknowledgement that the government needs to do much more on the decarbonisation of transportation to meet net zero in 2050, referencing criticism by the Committee on Climate Change.
Figure 18 shows the projection based on current Department for Transport policies, without any of the new policy instruments discussed in the report put in place: “It is clear from Figure 18 that the UK must go much further in reducing domestic transport emissions than currently projected if we are to meet the emission levels set out in the 2032 Clean Growth Strategy scenario (there is an estimated gap of 16MtCO2e between this and DfT’s current projection in 2032), and to meet our legal obligation to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050.” The chart shows just how dramatic the changes to our transportation system need to be in order to reach our net zero target.
The upcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan
The government has set out six strategic policy priorities for the full transport decarbonisation plan:
- Accelerating modal shift to public and active transport
- Decarbonisation of road vehicles
- Decarbonising how we get our goods
- Place-based solutions for emissions reduction
- UK as a hub for green transport technology and innovation
- Reducing carbon in a global economy
Regen welcomes these priorities and echoed many of them in our policy paper – Harnessing the electric vehicle revolution. As EV technology improves, the number of models available increases and consumer awareness rises, we will see further uptake across the different vehicle segments. With vans in particular in need of regulatory pressure. However, the lack of supply is likely to be exacerbated by the current factory shutdowns across the supply chain.
It remains to be seen what the overall impact of COVID–19 will be on the transport sector. With levels of travel at historic lows the benefits to air quality and reduced carbon emissions have been well documented. What is clear is that further strong policy changes and incentives are needed to decarbonise transport over the coming years. Given the momentum behind the EV revolution we hope that any lag in progress is short-lived.
Regen will be continuing to engage with the government in this crucial area of decarbonisation policy over the next few months. If you have views that you would like to share with us, please get in touch with Madeleine our policy manager by emailing – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regen is working on several projects to support transport decarbonisation, including:
- Working with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to assess the street-level uptake of EVs and other low carbon technologies. Further details here.
- Partnering on the £4 million Charging in Public Places Exeter project which is installing up to 150 rapid chargepoints in and around Exeter, UK.
- And finally, don’t forget to join over 300 people in registering for our free webinar on ultra-rapid charging hubs that will include the latest developments on this highly prized infrastructure opportunity. Details here.