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9% of all cars need to be ultra-low emission by 2020, says EAC

Words: Laura Edgar

A clear strategy is needed by the Department for Transport (DfT) to increase the use of ultra-low emission vehicles and reduce air pollution, says the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

In its latest report, Sustainability in the Department for Transport, the committee says that a strategy would enable the DfT to meet decarbonisation and air quality targets.

Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles such as 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,” she said.

“And it’s been almost a year since we discovered that VW had fitted cars with cheat devices, but the government has still to decide what action to take against the company.”

The government’s projections suggest that they will miss the target for ultra-low emission vehicles by half to make up 9 per cent of all new car and van sales by 2020, something the Committee on Climate Change said is necessary for the UK to meet its climate change targets in the most cost-effective way. The failure to meet this target risks making it “more expensive to meet our long-term carbon reduction target,” said Creagh.

The DfT should aim for almost two-thirds of new cars and vans to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030.

But “with no strategy, we have no confidence that the DfT will meet this target”.

Local authorities and the car industry told the committee about ways the DfT could increase electric vehicle use over the next 10 years, including supporting the take-up of electric and low-emission fleet procurement by underwriting risk or guaranteeing buy-back.

Ministers, said Creagh, should 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."

Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the EAC is right to call for more action on ultra-low emissions.

But she called for the government to be bolder in reducing the level of air pollution.

“With road traffic the biggest problem… it must create a plan for phasing out diesel use on Britain’s roads. Cutting traffic levels and preventing road-building adding to the air pollution problem should also be priorities.

“And we know it can be done. Other countries like the Netherlands and Norway are planning a ban of new diesel and petrol cars on sale from 2025, while large parts of Copenhagen are traffic-free.”

The full report can be found here.

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