The UK is announcing new zero-emission targets every few months, but what steps are they taking to hit them?
Since announcing its target to have all new cars and vans be fully zero emission at the tailpipe from 2035, the UK government has taken further steps within the transport sector to reach that goal and others.
These new steps towards zero emissions come in the wake of the government’s Decarbonising Transport report released last year, which included plans for a £2.5 billion investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as an emphasis on working with industries to hit emission targets.
More recently, as host of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties later this year, the government has developed a number of policies in its efforts to decarbonise the transport sector. In March, a £20 million fund to propel green shipbuilding was launched, with the purpose of boosting development of prototype vessels and port infrastructure which, if successful, would then see widespread adoption across the UK.
Closely following this, the government initiated a £120 million scheme with the aim of helping local transport authorities speed up the transition to zero emission buses. The scheme follows the announcement of a national bus strategy earlier in March, which included an outline for greener buses among other goals.
The government’s policies to help reach zero emissions have not been met without criticism, however, as is clear from a report published by a number of MPs last week which stated there would be major challenges in reaching many of these emission targets if the government does not revise its approach. The report focused on car emissions and the move towards adopting electric vehicles, one of the most important and publicized aspects of the push towards zero emissions. Meg Hillier, a Labour MP and Chair of the Committee, commented that the government would struggle to “build the necessary infrastructure to support this radical shift” and “convince consumers” to purchase electric cars.
‘22,790 public electric vehicle charging devices’ were recorded as available in the UK in April of this year, of which ‘4,259 were rapid devices’, the latter representing an increase of over 1600 units from the previous year. The distribution of these charging devices is not even, however, with a large percentage concentrated in London alone.
It appears the government may intend to spread the distribution of charging devices as the year progresses, however. This was suggested earlier this month with the announcement of the Zero-Emission Vehicle Transition Council, a body of governments and ministers created to promote cooperation and accelerate the transition to zero emissions. In his announcement, COP26 President Alok Sharma stated the work of the council would be “very much informed by consultations with business and civil society”. This promise aligns with the government’s pledge made in last year’s Decarbonising Transport report to work more closely with industries and communities.
Government - Industry Cooperation
In a statement on a report into the transition to zero-emission vehicles in the UK, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “The automotive industry shares government’s ambition for an electric revolution, a transformation that has already begun…Now is the time for government to match its world-leading ambitions with a world-class policy package”.
Possible indicators of successful cooperation between the government and industries are already beginning to appear, as the estimate for the total number of new electric vehicle registrations for this year has increased from 1.83 million to 1.86 million since February.
The Future of the ‘EV Switch’ in the UK
The government is continually drafting new policies to improve ‘chargepoint’ availability, and in February a £20 million cash injection was added to the effort, with the potential to help double the 4,000 ‘chargepoints’ provided by the latest scheme to 8,000. Transport Secretary Mark Shapps commented: “With a world-leading charging network, we’re making it easier for more people to switch to electric vehicles”.