Whitehall set to miss electric vehicle targets

A group of MPs have said they have ‘no confidence’ in the government reaching targets around electric vehicles and called on ministers to follow the example of local authorities in promoting their use.

A new report published today by the House of Commons’ environmental audit committee said Whitehall is set to miss targets of having ultra-low emission vehicles make up 9% of all new car and van sales by 2020.

The committee has also called on the Department for Transport (DfT) to put a ‘clear strategy’ in place to increase their uptake and also reduce air pollution.

‘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,’ said committee chair, Mary Creagh. ‘But the department’s forecasts show it will get only around half way to this target.’

The report also calls on the DfT to 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,’ added Ms Creagh.

The committee chair said transport authorities have also told MPs 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.

The report also highlights the important role local authorities are playing in encouraging residents and businesses to think about electric and ultra-low emission vehicles.

It states councils have developed a range of programmes, including supporting electric and low-emission fleet procurement by underwriting risk and helping workplaces invest in charging points.

Milton Keynes Council is one of the local authorities to have actively pushed the use of electric cars and low emission vehicles. As one of the four lead authorities in the DfT’s Go Ultra Low Cities programme, it has launched a free green parking permit scheme for electric vehicles and in July won £1.75m in extra funding from the government to increase the number of electric buses in the city.

Within the next two years, there will be 19 electric buses, making up a quarter of all the buses on key routes.

‘The council will continue to work closely with transport partners to bring the best sustainable and reliable transport options to Milton Keynes’ residents,’ said cabinet member for transport, Cllr Liz Gifford.

The head of renewable transport at the Renewable Energy Association, Clare Wenner, said ultra-low emission vehicles are also ‘essential for the future prosperity of the UK’.

‘The economy literally cannot function optimally if our cities are clogged with pollution and our consumers handicapped by poor air quality,’ said Ms Wenner.

‘We are one of the many stakeholders concerned that the DfT will not meet their legally binding 2020 renewable energy targets,’ she added.

‘We urge them to work closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and other departments to form a clear strategy for renewable fuels and electric vehicle uptake, not only for the short term, but for the coming decades.’

A DfT spokesperson said the department was committed to improving air quality and reducing vehicle emissions.

‘We want almost all cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050 and are investing more than £600m in this parliament to support the manufacture, use and uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.

‘In addition, the government is creating Clean Air Zones in five city centres, electrifying the rail network which cuts emissions and supporting the development of sustainable biofuels.

‘We welcome the environmental audit committee’s report and will consider the recommendations and respond in due course.’

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Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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