Green vehicle strategy to tackle pollution and climate change branded 'road to nowhere' by environmental groups

'Ministers keep saying they want Britain to be a leader in electric cars, yet they've set a phase-out date for petrol and diesel that's a decade behind other countries,' says Greenpeace

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Monday 09 July 2018 10:10
comments
New ultra-low emission zone in London to be 18 times larger than initially planned, Sadiq Khan announces

The government’s plan to clean up the nation’s road traffic has been dismissed as a “road to nowhere” by green campaigners.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling will unveil proposals, as part of his long-awaited Road to Zero strategy, which are intended to phase out high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles.

A shift to electric vehicles promises to clean up the country’s toxic air and help meet its ambitious climate targets, and the new plan is meant to ease this transition.

The strategy has been plagued by delays, prompting Lord Deben from the Committee on Climate Change to urge the government to “get on with it”.

Industry experts have warned that a lack of charging facilities may hold back the roll-out of electric vehicles in the UK

As details of the plan finally emerge, environmental groups have criticised the government for dragging its feet on a move to electric vehicles which is already well underway elsewhere, including Scotland.

Among proposed initiatives are more money to fund charging points, and plans for an assessment of whether new homes and offices should be required to instal these points as standard.

In addition, the plan calls for new street lighting columns on UK roads to have charging points, with on-street parking, in appropriate locations.

The government is also expected to outline more details of its ban on sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040.

Nations like Norway and India have already set out far more ambitious strategies, and Scotland has announced its intention to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

Cleaner vehicles like hybrids and electrics held just 5.5 per cent of the UK’s new car market in the first six months of the year, up slightly from 4.2 per cent during the same period in 2017.

At a time when the planet is threatened by climate change and air pollution contributes to 40,000 premature deaths each year, it is dangerous for the government to row back on their commitments to clean up road transport

Andy McDonald, shadow transport secretary

Launching the government’s plans to boost take-up of the technology, Mr Grayling will say: “The Road to Zero strategy, combined with the measures we’ve already introduced, will mean Britain now has one of the most comprehensive support packages for zero-emission vehicles in the world.”

The boost in charge points is supported by research from motoring charity the RAC Foundation, as well as the AA, which shows growth in electric car use could be stalled by shortcomings in the public charging network.

Theresa May responds to high court ruling that air pollution plan is 'unlawful'

AA president Edmund King said: “A big push on a range of slow, fast and rapid charging points should help overcome this hurdle

“These Road to Zero proposals are a step in the right direction, but there is still much to do to wean drivers off petrol and diesel cars.”

Mr Grayling will lay out his desire to make the UK “the best country in the world in which to develop and manufacture zero-emission vehicles”.

“The prize is not just a cleaner and healthier environment but a UK economy fit for the future, and the chance to win a substantial slice of a market estimated to be worth up to £7.6 trillion by 2050.”

Despite these grand ambitions, critics were dubious about the scope of Mr Grayling’s plans.

“Ministers keep saying they want Britain to be a leader in electric cars, yet they’ve set a phase-out date for petrol and diesel that’s a decade behind other countries,” said Greenpeace UK clean air campaigner Paul Morozzo.

“Ministers need to shift up a gear, or this Road to Zero will start looking like a road to nowhere.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate change at WWF, said: “MPs, NGOs and business leaders are calling out for a faster transition, but not only is the UK government sticking with its laggard target, it is weakening it by excluding hybrids from the petrol/diesel ban.”

Mr Redmond-King called for “bigger and bolder action” ahead of a major zero-emission vehicle summit being held in Birmingham later this year.

These sentiments were echoed by Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, who said there was a need for a more ambitious target to clean up the roads.

“At a time when the planet is threatened by climate change and air pollution contributes to 40,000 premature deaths each year, it is dangerous for the government to row back on their commitments to clean up road transport,” he said.

“Under the Tories, Britain is being held back from the transition towards electric vehicles which is already happening elsewhere across the globe.”

Additional reporting by PA.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments