MPs recommend focus on transport to revitalise UK’s flagging climate policies

electric car charging

The new Secretary of State for Transport recently revealed that it took two years to receive delivery of his new electric vehicle, so he may find himself agreeing with the new Commons Select Committee report.

The report criticises the Government’s lack of progress on its carbon reduction targets and calls out transport in particular. We fed comments into the Committee and were pleased to see Environmental Defense Fund Europe’s (EDFE) suggestions about how to incentivise cleaner vehicle uptake included in the recommendations for Government. We hope the Secretary of State will seriously consider them.

EV sales lagging

The report – from the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology committee, composed of cross-party MPs – examines technologies that can help the UK meet its emissions reductions targets, and emphasises the need for urgent action.

The Committee notes that transport is the UK’s largest emitting sector of greenhouse gases, and still growing. Yet sales of EVs, which release less harmful pollution than combustion engine vehicles, remain beneath the target indicators set by the Committee on Climate Change.

EDFE recommendations

EDFE submitted written evidence to the Committee, and our calls for a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate are reflected in the report’s recommendations. ZEVs emit no pollutants from combustion and include both battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.

Specifically, the report echoes our suggestion that the UK adopt sales mandates to incentivise manufacturers to produce and sell ZEVs at the levels that the UK’s decarbonisation targets require. This approach – which has been implemented in China and various US states – is associated with increased ZEV sales. The policy should use a tradeable credit scheme so that manufacturers can sell ‘surplus’ sales certificates to competitors – essentially meaning that manufacturers can be rewarded for going beyond their own ZEV goals.

Based on our evidence, the Committee recommended an annual government review of the ultra-low emissions vehicles market to determine if there are sufficient incentives for manufacturers and dealers, and specifically consider whether a ZEV mandate is needed. In other words, the Government should ensure that car companies and salespeople have the targets and support they need to grow cleaner-vehicle sales. 

Stepping up goals

The report also recommends:

  • Setting a 2035 phase-out of sales of internal combustion engine vehicles, including hybrids, at the latest – a step up compared to the current goal of a 2040 phase-out.
  • Maintaining or increasing financial incentives for purchases of new or second-hand electric vehicles.
  • Reducing total vehicle numbers on the road as part of a decarbonised transport system, with people switching to public transit, shared mobility and more active transport.

A healthier system

All of the Committee’s recommendations would help give people the means to get around in a less-polluting way.

Getting people away from fossil fuel vehicles and into cleaner cars – and ultimately out of personal vehicles altogether – can have profound health impacts. Research by Oxford University suggests that the health damage effects associated with diesel vehicle emissions are at least 5 times more than those associated with petrol vehicles and around 20 times more than EVs.

EDFE has been focusing workshops, research and engagement with policymakers on creating a healthy shared mobility system, including a comprehensive new approach to regulating air quality and how to regulate data to empower citizens so they can choose the least-polluting modes of transport.

We hope the Government will take on board the Committee’s recommendations and we will continue to advocate for innovative transport policies, such as a ZEV Mandate, better transport data regulation and updated air quality laws.

If the Government acts now, perhaps the next Transport Minister’s electric vehicle will be delivered without the long wait.