The Liberal Democrats have recently been targeted for a statement in their latest policy paper Green Growth Green Jobs – Transition to a Zero Carbon Britain that “by 2040, only ultra-low carbon vehicles will be permitted on UK roads for non-freight purposes.” Media backlash seems to suggest that this is either “unrealistic” or that setting an “arbitrary deadline” such as this would mean condemning cars to the scrapheap before their time.
Given that the average lifetime of a car in the UK is 13.5 years, it could be argued that the last point is moot. As always, if we know whats coming well in advance, then we can all act accordingly. This could be an indication towards more long-term policy planning that would provide a clear and simple message to industry of what is to come, and can allow it to turn around production and move in a different – more environmentally friendly – direction. We also argue, here at the Centre for Alternative Technology, under our Zero Carbon Britain scenario, that 2040 is not soon enough, and welcome the addition that “if technology permitted, we [the Liberal Democrats] would bring forward this date.” (We might also let the Liberal Democrats know that we already have the technology!)
But one thing we would like to add, that is currently missing from the media sphere – is that the Liberal Democrats, as in our Zero Carbon Britain scenario, are also actively supporting other methods of transport. We should encourage policy proposals, like those suggested by the Liberal Democrats, that would:
- “Introduce a statutory requirement that cyclists’ and pedestrians’ needs are considered as part of any new transport and infrastructure development projects”
- “Support re-opening and expanding rail lines and stations.”
- “Provide more support to bus operators and local authorities for improving and expanding bus services.”
Providing viable alternative methods of transportation (to cars) is key to reducing transport emissions in the UK, and in our new report we suggest that changing the ways we travel will be an important part of reducing emissions associated with transport (see above). According to Richard Hebditch from the Campaign for Better Transport, in his discussion paper ZCB and Drivers featured in the new report, “people do need realistic [transport] choices.”
Interestingly, Hebditch also states that “where public transport is good and there are local shops and services (otherwise known as London) car use is falling fast” and that “less than one in five is a ‘die hard motorist’” suggesting that media backlash to this policy proposal is actually representing a minority viewpoint.
As noted by the Liberal Democrats, transport “is responsible for 24% of the UK’s carbon emissions, and is the only one where energy intensity has increased since 1970.” (Note: increased energy intensity means transport in the UK is becoming less energy efficient). By changing the fuel type our vehicles run on, we could reverse this trend dramatically. Electric cars and buses are around three times as efficient as cars and buses that run on petrol and diesel – and they could be up to six or seven times as efficient as the average vehicle on the roads today (see the Transport section of ZCB for more information on this).
Hebditch states that “even more than with other sectors, there is a dangerous complacency amongst policymakers about reducing carbon emissions from transport.” There are, of course, many other parts of our transportation system that need addressing, but its great to see one party at least start to get to grips with changes that are closer to the level of ambition required in UK government.
Read more about the Centre for Alternative Technology’s report here: http://www.zerocarbonbritain.org/