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UK transport decarbonisation – the challenges ahead
The UK government has published a document that it claims marks ‘the beginning of a conversation to develop the policies needed to decarbonise transport’ in the country. Entitled Decarbonising transport: Setting the challenge, the report sets out the challenge that needs to be met to reduce transport emissions and ensure that the UK reaches net zero transport emissions by 2050, also providing a perspective on the current state of play and the size of emissions reductions needed.
The government plans to publish a ‘Transport Decarbonisation Plan’ this year, which will define the policies and plans needed to tackle emissions from transport.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says: ‘Transport has a huge role to play in the economy to reach net zero. The scale of the challenge demands a step change in both the breadth and scale of ambition and we have a duty to act quickly and decisively to reduce emissions. The associated benefits of bold and ambitious action to tackle transport emissions are also significant. We can improve people's health, create better places to live and travel in, and drive clean economic growth.’
The government agrees with the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that whilst it is technically possible to deliver net zero based on current consumer behaviours and known technologies, the target will only be credible if policy measures ramp up significantly and urgently.
The document notes that ‘an important aspect of reducing emissions from transport will be to use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network’. This will require changes to people’s behaviours, including encouraging more active travel [eg bicycles] and the use of public transport, alongside increasing the uptake of zero emission vehicles and new technologies. ‘We want public transport and active travel to be the natural first choice for our daily activities... We are already exploring how we can use vehicles differently, such as through shared mobility. New technologies and business models may help facilitate modal shift, such as mobility-as-a-service platforms. This will require behavioural changes and we will consider how government and others can support this shift through infrastructure and encouraging those forms of travel,’ says the report.