UK unveils Transport decarbonisation plan

By Dominic Ellis
The sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles would be phased out by 2040, five years after diesel and petrol cars

The UK has unveiled its Transport decarbonisation plan as it strives to cut transport emissions in the air and on the ground and achieve net zero targets by 2050.

Cleaner transport through the production of zero emission road vehicles could support tens of thousands of jobs worth up to £9.7 billion GVA in 2050, leading to reduced pollution and congestion. 

The sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) would be phased out by 2040, subject to consultation – combined with the 2035 phase out date for polluting cars and vans. It would cover vehicles weighing from 3.5 to 26 tonnes and vehicles weighing more than 26 tonnes could operate until 2040 – or earlier if a faster transition seems feasible.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said transport fundamentally shapes our towns, cities and countryside, living standards and health. 

"It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero emission cars," he said.

The UK government has pledged £2 billion in cycling and walking infrastructure, £2.8 billion to support industry and motorists to make the switch to cleaner vehicles and aims to create a 'net zero rail network' by 2050, net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040 and lead the transition green shipping.

Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at Logistics UK, said the Transport decarbonisation plan will help to provide logistics businesses with confidence and clarity on the steps they must take on the pathway to net zero. "Consultation on proposed phase out dates for new diesel HGVs should enable business to move forwards with confidence. Rail, shipping and aviation are all essential parts of logistics, so plans to support freight modal shift and develop technologies to reduce emissions across these modes are welcome," she said.

Sandy Parsonage, Director of Supply Chain and Logistics for Sainsbury’s, which is a principal sponsor of COP26, welcomed the government’s ambition and looks forward to engaging with the consultation. "We are already working across our supply chain to explore alternative fuels and develop a zero carbon fleet of the future. At the same time, we’re investing to reduce the emissions across our current fleet. This ambition will accelerate efforts to develop the technologies the UK needs to achieve net zero."

The government is also today publishing a 2035 delivery plan, which brings together all of the measures for decarbonising cars and vans, from across government, into a single document. It outlines the key timelines, milestones and how progress towards the commitment to deliver mass ownership of zero emission cars and vans will be monitored.

This follows recent investments from car manufacturer Nissan to produce its new-generation electric vehicle in Sunderland, alongside Envision’s new Gigafactory (click here), as well as Stellantis’s investment in Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port manufacturing plant to transform the site for a new era in electric vehicle manufacturing.

Aviation has a vital role to play in tackling climate change, which is why the government is today also launching the Jet zero consultation, which commits the sector to a net zero emissions target by 2050 and sets out an action plan for how it can be achieved – ensuring everyone can continue to fly for holidays, visits to family and business without contributing to climate change.

Reflecting the fact the UK aviation industry is already leading the way in seeking to reduce emissions from flights, the consultation proposes an earlier target for UK domestic aviation to reach net zero by 2040, as well as for all airport operations in England to be zero emission by 2040.

Emma Gilthorpe, COO of Heathrow and Jet Zero Council CEO, welcomed the leadership from government in committing to a target of net zero emissions from aviation by 2050 and recognising that the aviation industry is committed to delivering on this, too. "We look forward to working with government to translate this ambition to action and deliver a future where people can continue to enjoy the benefits of air travel – without worrying about their impact on the environment."

Greg Archer, UK Director of the Europe-wide green transport campaign group Transport & Environment, said the plan is milestone in the shift to a more sustainable UK transport system. "The decision to only use zero emission road vehicles – including trucks – by 2050 is world-leading and will significantly reduce Britain’s climate impact and improve the air we breathe. This complements the goal of net zero internal UK flights by 2040, although there is much more to do to tackle international aviation emissions," he said.

To ensure the UK meets its climate targets, the government will need to convert its raft of new proposals into measures that rapidly change how people and goods move. More difficult decisions to reduce vehicle use and flying and reallocate spending towards green transport options will be needed, but this plan signifies a commendable and substantial shift in the right direction.

Graeme Cooper, Head of Future Markets at National Grid, said this is the first zero emissions transport mandate for a major economy and is a great opportunity ahead of COP26 to show the UK’s commitment to clean transport and clean air. "The government has already committed significant investment for EV charging infrastructure and today’s announcement will be a further boost, giving the industry and consumers clarity and confidence for the road ahead, not just for cars but other forms of transport too, including heavy goods vehicles," he said.

BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney welcomed publication of the plans, which provides a clearer picture of where we are and where we need to get to on the road to net zero. "BVRLA members will play a vital role in this journey, enabling millions of individuals and businesses to embrace zero emission road transport and switch to more sustainable forms of mobility. There will be many important milestones along the way and we will continue to work with government and other stakeholders in achieving them."

Jeff Ovens, Managing Director – UK and Europe at Fulcrum BioEnergy, which is aiming to develop Fulcrum NorthPoint, one of the UK’s first Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) facilities, in Cheshire, said to deliver on aviation net zero emissions by 2040, the rapid deployment of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) facilities will be vital.

"Our first UK facility, based at the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Cheshire will take non-recyclable waste, otherwise destined for landfill or incineration and use it to produce approximately 100 million litres of SAF, transported via direct pipeline to Airports such as Manchester.  When compared to regular jet fuel, our SAF from NorthPoint has the potential to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by up to 100% and help to improve local air quality, whilst diverting waste from landfill. We have plans for a number of facilities across the UK and look forward to working closely with Government to ensure we have the right policy environment to help deliver on this target."

The government is also committing to legislation later this year which will ensure all new private EV chargepoints meet smart charging standards, which can save consumers money on their energy bills.

David Watson, CEO and Founder of Ohme, was pleased that the Government has recognised the critical role played by smart charging technology to underpin a successful decarbonisation programme. Legislation to ensure all private EV chargepoints meet smart charging standards is a step in the right direction, but simply declaring something as ‘smart’ isn’t enough, he said. 

“To ensure these technologies are adopted at scale, we need to see a holistic approach to smart charging to manage the spikes in demand due to mass EV adoption. This must include incentives for consumers, businesses and fleets, in addition to education and awareness campaigns, and greater collaboration between government, energy companies and clean tech companies.

“Smart charging technologies bring down the cost and complexity of electric vehicle charging and help to balance the National Grid. Without a concerted and holistic effort to encourage adoption, we risk undermining the success of the EV transition in the UK.”


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