UK Government vows to unveil climate roadmap next year but critics demand action not more policies and plans

Jillian Ambrose Tue 15 Oct 2019 Guardian

electric vehicles sign
 The government says it hopes to unleash a large-scale battery boom by cutting red tape as part of its strategy for emissions-free transport. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

The UK government has vowed to accelerate its climate action for transport sector by drafting new plans to end emissions from trains, planes and cars by 2050.

Ministers promised to begin the groundwork on the government’s first detailed plan to decarbonise the transport sector immediately, and unveil the plan in full next year.

The climate action roadmap will be one of many new government climate proposals expected in 2020 to help meet the UK’s legally binding target to build a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

The plans follow a damning rebuke from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) earlier this year, in which John Gummer, the committee chair, likened the government’s climate efforts to the TV comedy Dad’s Army.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said: “We want to work with industry and communities around the country to develop this plan – to make our towns and cities better places to live, help to create new jobs, improve air quality and our health, and take urgent action on climate change.”

Shapps was speaking on the same day that environmental protesters targeted the Department for Transport offices over its support for the HS2 rail project, which is expected to run through ancient woodlands.

The transport climate roadmap is expected to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 after Shapps told the Conservative party conference this month that the government would “thoroughly explore the case” for a 2035 deadline.

The government also hopes to unleash a large-scale battery boom by cutting red tape in the planning system for energy storage projects larger than 50MW. This should help energy companies build bigger batteries faster, and at lower costs, to make help use more of the UK’s renewable electricity projects.

Under separate plans the government has proposed setting out tougher minimum energy efficiency standards for rented workplaces which could put British businesses in line for savings of around £1bn a year on energy bills.

Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, said the government would build on Britain’s track record on climate action, and “will keep on going further and faster to ensure our action meets our ambition”.

The ambition was broadly welcomed by industry, but many warned that the UK needs to take action rather than rely on proposals and plans.

The campaign group Transport and Environment said the plan to accelerate the transport sector’s climate agenda does not go far enough. The group said ministers should have announced a 2030 ban on the sale of new combustion engine vehicles, an end to the fuel duty freeze and new taxes on aviation.

Chris Stark, the chief executive of the CCC, said: “When it comes to preparing for the effects of climate change, the government’s approach continues to rest on the need for further research and guidance, instead of action. Meanwhile, the country remains unprepared for even a 2C rise in global temperature.

“The UK’s role as a genuine climate leader now rests on tangible commitments – we will be watching next month’s budget closely.”