In September 2018, British Prime Minister, Theresa May, told the delegates to the World’s first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit
, held in Birmingham, that she wants to see Britain “leading from the front and working with industries and countries around the world to spearhead change”. So what is happening in the UK, how and why?
EU Legislation - Moving towards a low-carbon economy in 2050
To keep global climate change below 2 degrees Celcius - the internationally agreed target to prevent the catastrophic consequences of global warming - the EU (which still includes the UK) is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
“Transport accounts for around a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions and affects air quality at the roadside. We’re working to reduce emissions by promoting public transport choices, supporting the market for innovative forms of transport and encouraging a move to cleaner and lower carbon vehicles.” 2010 to 2015 government policy: transport emissions
policy paper, (published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government) 3 October 2012. Although this paper has since been withdrawn, the sentiment remains.
Since 2009, hundreds of policy papers, initiatives, advice to consumers, consultations and investigations (and their outcomes), etc. concerning transport emissions
have been published by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), Department for Transport (DfT) and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Funding and incentives for technological innovations and their uptake
Electric vehicle charging
OLEV’s website gives details of all the schemes for electric vehicle charging
. Advice is given for householders and installers for the Homecharge scheme; the same for the Workplace charging scheme; on-On-street residential chargepoint scheme and the Ultra low emissions taxi infrastructure scheme. (Last updated August 2018).
Types of transport
The government is keen to encourage cycling
and has issued a number of documents and guidance about cycling including:
• Cycling grants and funding, various 2013-2015
– has a sustainable development strategy 2013-2024
. Emissions emanating from the rail transport infrastructure in the UK has been underestimated, but they have continued the electrification of the lines and, where that proved impossible, electrified the train itself by adding a lithium battery to a modified class 379 train.
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
The CAA’s site states their role in relation to aviation and the environment
. It advises the government on reducing the aviation industry’s carbon emissions, and the development of international initiatives such as emissions trading. It also helps with planning wind power in the UK.
Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO)
requires suppliers of fossil fuels to ensure that a specified percentage of the road fuels they supply in the UK is made up of renewable fuels. As well as obliging fuel suppliers to meet targets for the volumes of biofuels supplied, the RTFO requires companies to submit reports on the carbon and sustainability of the biofuels. The RTFO order places an obligation on any supplier of road transport/NRMM fuel who supplies more than 450,000 litres in total of petrol, diesel or renewable transport fuel, to places in the UK, in an obligation period from 15 April one year to 14 April the following year.
The obligation is calculated as a percentage of fossil and unsustainable renewable fuel which result in the supply of renewable fuel being a certain percentage of overall road/NRMM fuel supply.
| Obligation year || Obligation percentage |
Resultant renewable fuel supply
and all subsequent years
| 4.9870% || 4.7501% |
(NRMM= no-road mobile machinery (including inland waterway vessels which do not normally operate at sea), agricultural and forestry tractors, and recreational craft that do not normally operate at sea).
• Information and statistics on biofuels
- includes information on the percentage of road fuel supplied in the UK that is made up of renewable fuel and well as information on its sustainability.
Local and regional government initiatives
Belfast City Council’s policy is to encourage cycling and walking
, implement green transport initiative to minimise the impact of their vehicle fleet including replacing their fleet with lower emission vehicles.
Welsh Government is encouraging cycling and walking by making them safer and has identified budget for electric charging points.
Further reading and major references
• Office for Low Emission Vehicles,
• Vehicle Certification Agency,
• Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency,
• Department for Transport,
• Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation Expert Advisory Group
Christian Brand. 'Beyond ‘Dieselgate’: Implications of unaccounted and future air pollutant emissions and energy use for cars in the United Kingdom Energy Policy. October 2016.
Energy Insight: Decarbonisation of transport worldwide. EI Knowledge Service, June 2017.