New analysis has shown that Department for Transport has quietly rolled back its ambition to introduce cleaner, more efficient road travel.
Transport is the UK’s biggest source of carbon emissions, and the Transport Decarbonisation Plan published in 2021 set out a bold and detailed journey to achieve net-zero transport by 2050. For road travel, it built on policies to phase out fossil-fuelled vehicles and was followed by strategies that supported a switch from car use to efficient, lower-carbon modes like public transport, walking and cycling.
In 2023, the government published a new plan, the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, which set out a different carbon reduction pathway for transport. Analysis of this new plan shows that any aspirations to reduce traffic demand have been removed, along with a downgrading of the contribution of a switch to lower carbon modes of transport. In fact, the vast majority of potential ambition proposed less than two years earlier has been lost.
The remaining policy focus is on the rapid take up of electric vehicles, but at a much slower pace than originally planned. Even if this was realised, it would be insufficient to achieve interim carbon reduction targets and it will make a fair transition for all road users more difficult to deliver. Without the inclusion of traffic reduction policies alongside the move to electric vehicles, net-zero transport will be very difficult to achieve in the necessary timeframes.
Professor Greg Marsden, author of the report, says that “There seems to be little appetite to depart from business as usual planning for transport. This is why transport has been the slowest to decarbonise sector and is the biggest emitter in the economy. The ambition set out by the Department for Transport less than two years ago seems to have largely gone. It is not yet too late to shift to lower carbon transport futures which deliver emissions savings faster and better and fairer transport systems for users, but the window for doing this is closing.”