A new report argues that to be fair to all, the UK government’s upcoming plan for decarbonising transport must focus on improving people’s quality of life – and this cannot be achieved through a shift to electric vehicles alone.
The think tank IPPR analysis of the Committee on Climate Change’s sixth carbon budget shows that, without additional measures being put in place, the current approaches to reaching net zero could lead to an 11 per cent rise in car traffic between 2021 and 2050.
There could be a 28 per cent increase in car ownership, with 10 million more cars on the road by 2050. There are serious questions about the resources required to construct these 43.6 million vehicles.
Even more land and street space would need to be used for car parking. The average car in the UK is parked 96 per cent of the time.
An approach that places too much emphasis on the shift to electric vehicles, without also providing sufficient support for alternatives including affordable public transport, walking and cycling, would also likely benefit wealthy people more.
Over 90 per cent of the highest income households own at least one car (and over 20 per cent own three or more) while only a third of households in the bottom 10 per cent by income own a car. People on lower incomes would benefit much more from an improved public transport system, according to IPPR.
The think tank says that the drive to net zero is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the way we all travel.
Its report sets out a vision of a future with far more affordable clean transport options that can improve people’s health and wellbeing, while providing a better environment for nature and access to an electric vehicle for those who need it.
They say that Government should create a national guarantee for levels of transport and digital connectivity with the stated aim of making it possible to live a good life, wherever you live, without needing to own a car. This must include:
There should be seven days a week public transport connectivity for all rural areas and a principle that everyday needs should be accessible within a 20-minute walk, cycle or public transport trip.
This will require investment in both public transport and revitalising local town centres. Investment in walking and cycling during this Parliament should be at least £6 billion.
Government should Introduce a ‘help to move scheme’ to provide grants and loans to support people to buy cycles, electric scooters, ebikes or electric vehicles where they need them and ensure fair access to electric cars if and when they are needed, with a national electric vehicle charging rollout.
There should be an end to all public procurement of carbon-emitting vehicles by 2022 and bring forward to 2025 the ban on buying combustion-engine vehicles for large commercial fleets, to ensure businesses take action to decarbonise their fleets.
Reallocate road space to cycling, walking and green space. Town and city centres should aim to be car free by 2030.
Local authority planners should set a target of at least 30 per cent tree cover for new developments and be able to prevent new developments that would increase traffic or car dependence.
Luke Murphy, head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:
“The urgency of the climate crisis cannot be overstated. Yet little progress has been made in cutting transport emissions over the past three decades. This imperative for urgent action creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put in place a new approach to how we all travel.
“The government’s current preferred strategy places an overwhelming focus on the shift to electric vehicles. While superficially attractive because of its offer of continuity, such an approach will not deliver for people or planet.
“We need to massively expand the provision of and affordability of clean public transport options, such as trains, buses and trams, while helping more people to regularly walk and cycle, alongside a shift to electric vehicles for those that need them.”