Government publishes landmark Net Zero Strategy as COP26 approaches

Tue 19 October 2021 View all news

The UK Government has published its long-heralded Net Zero Strategy with just under two weeks to go before the critical COP26 climate summit begins in Glasgow. In sections focused on transport, the Strategy says: "We will transform our cities and towns with greener, faster and more efficient transport. Our streets will be cleaner and people healthier from breathing cleaner air, walking and cycling more".

The Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener confirms that, subject to further consultation, the Government intends to introduce a zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate to "guarantee greater number of zero emission vehicles on our roads, unlocking the transformation of our road transport".

The strategy promises further funding of £350m Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains and £620m for zero emission vehicle grants and EV Infrastructure (more details to be published later), including further funding for local EV Infrastructure, with a focus on local on street residential charging. 

The Prime Minister's foreword to the Strategy says: "In 2050, we will still be driving cars, flying planes and heating our homes, but our cars will be electric, gliding silently around our cities, our planes will be zero emission allowing us to fly guilt-free."

However, it also acknowledges the need for modal shift and more active travel to complement private car use saying: "We will increase the share of journeys taken by public transport, cycling and walking, investing £3 billion to transform bus services and £2 billion for cycling. Accelerating the decarbonisation of transport will save lives and significantly reduce noise, making our urban centres more enjoyable places to live."

Other policy commitments in the Strategy include commitments to: 

  • Take action to increase average road vehicle occupancy from 1.55 to 1.7. Work is under way to build the evidence base "to understand the barriers and potential policies to increase the uptake of shared mobility".
  • Transform local transport systems, with 4,000 new zero emission buses and the infrastructure to support them.
  • Take forward the pledge to end the sale of all new, non-zero emission road vehicles by 2040, from motorcycles to buses and HGVs, subject to consultation.
  • Build on the £20m zero emission road freight trials (ZERFT) with an expansion to trial three zero emission HGV technologies at scale on UK roads to determine their operational benefits, as well as their infrastructure needs.
  • Support decarbonisation by investing more than £12 billion in local transport systems over the current Parliament.
  • Consult this year on a phase out date of 2035, or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible, for the sale of new non-zero emission powered two and three wheelers (and other L-category vehicles).
  • Make quantifiable carbon reductions a fundamental part of local transport planning and funding. Local Transport Plans (LTPs) will need to set out how local areas will deliver ambitious carbon reductions in line with carbon budgets and net zero. 
  • Embed transport decarbonisation principles in spatial planning and across transport policy making.
  • Reduce the barriers to data sharing across the transport sector.

The Government has already committed to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030 and, from 2035, all new cars and vans must be zero emission at the tailpipe.  The proposed new zero emission vehicle mandate will set targets (with the details subject to further consultation) for a percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero emission each year from 2024.

There is also a commitment, later this year, to publish an EV infrastructure strategy, setting out the Government's vision for infrastructure rollout, and roles for the public and private sectors in achieving it.

Commenting on the Net Zero Strategy, Zemo Partnership's CEO, Andy Eastlake said:  " Government recognises that transport is now the biggest sector for carbon emissions and is tackling this huge challenge on a wide range of fronts.

"The zero emissions mandate is a potentially powerful new lever in the policymakers' armoury and will help to ensure that the phase-out dates for ICE vehicles are met, or exceeded.

"I'm particularly pleased to see mentions of the potential for smaller, L-category, vehicles to contribute to this agenda as well as the commitment to continue to focus on decarbonising fuels for as long as they remain a significant part of our transport energy mix - two areas of activity that Zemo Partnership has consistently championed. 

"As is clearly stated in the detail of the document, technology will have to be complemented by behaviour changes in all aspects of mobility if we're to achieve the net zero target. 

"This is almost certainly the most challenging but, undoubtedly, the most exciting time ever to be working in transport!"

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