The Department for Transport needs a clear strategy to increase the use of ultra-low emission vehicles, reduce air pollution and so that it can meet decarbonisation and air quality targets, Britain’s Environmental Audit Committee says in its report.
Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Committee, said, “The uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles like electric cars, is too low to meet the UK’s climate change targets at the lowest cost to the public.
“Air quality targets that were supposed to be met in 2010 won’t be hit until 2020 at the earliest. And it’s been almost a year since we discovered VW had fitted cars with cheat devices, but government has still to decide what action to take against the company.”
The Government’s projections show they will miss the target for ultra-low emission vehicles to make up 9% of all new car and van sales by 2020, which the Committee on Climate Change says is necessary to meet our climate change targets in the most cost-effective way.
The EAC is also concerned that the Department has no medium-term strategy to promote these vehicles after 2020.
Mary Creagh MP added, “We need 9% of all new cars to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020 if we’re going to meet our climate change targets at the lowest cost to the public.
“But the Department’s forecasts show it will get only around half way to this target. This failure risks making it more expensive to meet our long term carbon reduction targets.
“The Department should also aim for almost two thirds of new cars and vans to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030. With no strategy, we have no confidence that The DfT will meet this target.”
Local authorities and the car industry described ways in which the Department could increase electric vehicle use, both private and public, over the next decade and beyond.
“Local authorities had a range of innovative ideas to drive take-up, such as supporting electric and low emission fleet procurement by underwriting risk or guaranteeing buy-back, helping workplaces invest in charging points, and introducing a national grant scheme for electric and low emission taxis,” she said.
“Ministers should also think about changes to vehicle taxation, including company cars, to make electric vehicles more attractive. The Government needs to give manufacturers – such as Nissan, Honda, LTC, and Toyota – a reason to choose their UK car factories – in places like Sunderland, Swindon, Coventry, and Derby – to manufacture the next generation of low emission vehicles. This would encourage Nissan to manufacture the next generation of their electric car, the Leaf, in Sunderland, from 2018.”
On the matter of air quality, they were also concerned at the slowness of the Government in making or forcing changes.
“In 2013 only five of 43 clean air zones in the UK met EU standards on levels of NOx, a pollutant which causes respiratory diseases. Following court action in 2015, the Department has now produced a joint air quality plan with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.”
Mary Creagh said, “The Government’s belated plan to tackle air quality means polluted towns and cities will hit 2010 air quality targets 10 years late, in 2020.
“Transport authorities throughout England told us they have had problems with getting sustainable transport projects off the ground, because the DfT places more importance on economic benefits rather than the health benefits of improving air quality.
“With the vote to leave the EU, there’s a material risk to our air quality targets. At the very least, the Government should commit to keeping existing European air quality standards. We also want the Department to work with the Treasury, Health and Local Government Departments to ensure the benefits of clean air are properly costed in transport investment decisions.”