New report says shift to electric vehicles isn't enough - public & shared transport, active travel solutions needed

Wed 23 June 2021 View all news

A new report by the think-tank IPPR says that as well as decarbonising how we move we will also need to reduce the amount we travel in order to meet climate change objectives.

It calls for the shift to electric vehicles to be complemented by a much greater role for public transport, walking and cycling in the UK’s future.

The report has been written to provide evidence to IPPR's high-level Environmental Justice Commission which is co-chaired by MPs Caroline Lucas and Hilary Been and former MP Laura Sandys.

Analysing the Committee on Climate Change’s sixth carbon budget, the report suggests that, without additional measures being put in place, the current approaches to reaching net zero could lead to:

  • An 11 per cent rise in car traffic between 2021 and 2050.
  • A 28 per cent increase in car ownership, with 10 million more cars on the road by 2050. There are serious questions about the resources required to construct these 43.6 million vehicles.
  • Even more land and street space used for car parking. The average car in the UK is parked 96 per cent of the time.

The report says that an approach that places too much emphasis on the shift to electric vehicles, without also providing sufficient support for alternatives including affordable public transport, walking and cycling, would also likely benefit wealthy people more. 

IPPR says that the drive to net zero is "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the way we all travel".

The report sets out a vision of a future with far more affordable clean transport options that can improve people’s health and wellbeing, while providing a better environment for nature and access to an electric vehicle for those who need it.

Its proposals include:

  • Create a national guarantee for levels of transport and digital connectivity with the stated aim of making it possible to live a good life, wherever you live, without needing to own a car. This must include:
  • Seven days a week public transport connectivity for all rural areas.
  • The principle that everyday needs should be accessible within a 20-minute walk, cycle or public transport trip. This will require investment in both public transport and revitalising local town centres. Investment in walking and cycling during this Parliament should be at least £6 billion.
  • Introduce a ‘help to move scheme’ to provide grants and loans to support people to buy cycles, electric scooters, ebikes or electric vehicles where they need them.
  • Ensure fair access to electric cars if and when they are needed, with a national electric vehicle charging rollout.
  • End all public procurement of carbon-emitting vehicles by 2022 and bring forward to 2025 the ban on buying combustion-engine vehicles for large commercial fleets, to ensure businesses take action to decarbonise their fleets.
  • Reallocate road space to cycling, walking and green space. Town and city centres should aim to be car free by 2030. Local authority planners should set a target of at least 30 per cent tree cover for new developments and be able to prevent new developments that would increase traffic or car dependence.

The report authors call on the government to aim for the level of car ownership to peak by 2030, before falling to a more desirable level by 2050.


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