Coronavirus to spur green transport revolution, says Transport Secretary
The Covid-19 pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to rethink the way we travel and to accelerate the development of clean technologies, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps.
Speaking at this week’s annual conference held online by the LowCVP, Shapps said now is the time for a green transport revolution.
“We can reframe the narrative around green vehicles and show that it is this generation that will drive the transition to zero-carbon road transport,” he told delegates.
It’s a view backed up by a survey of expert stakeholders – carried out by LowCVP for the event – which reveals that the vast majority (92%) of respondents agree that now is the moment for a ‘reset’ in terms of decarbonising road transport with nearly 85% saying that the disruption caused by the pandemic has opened the door to the public accepting more radical and effective policy prescriptions for ‘greening’ road transport.
Speaking after the minister’s statement, LowCVP’s managing director Andy Eastlake said: “Our target must no longer be to achieve ‘low carbon’ road transport but to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from every stage of the whole transport system.
“That’s why, I’m announcing today that our partnership of over 200 organisations will be changing focus from ‘low’ to zero carbon and will be introducing a new brand identity to better reflect our revised objective of net zero by 2050.
“We’ll be working with leading partners in the next few weeks to introduce a new name that will communicate our heightened ambition but still reflect the vital role every member has in contributing to rapid decarbonisation.”
More than 1,000 senior stakeholders registered to attend the LowCVP’s online conference, which featured over 20 leading speakers as well as the Secretary of State from the motor and fuels sectors, government, transport operations, academia and environmental NGOs. Speakers included Sir John Armitt CBE, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission; Caroline Russell, Local Transport Spokesperson for the Green Party and Dimitri Zenghelis, Senior Associate, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
The LowCVP’s conference survey found that a large majority (91%) of the 200-plus expert stakeholders who answered the survey think that the time is ripe to ramp up ambition in terms of road transport decarbonisation.
While most respondents said that the right balance must be found between economic and environmental objectives, a significant minority (nearly 30%) also said that environmental concerns should be prioritised – even if there is an economic cost.
Over three-quarters of respondents think that in the wake of the pandemic, the £27bn earmarked for new roads in the March Budget should be reallocated to other uses.
And although public and shared transport will need to play a significant part in the transition to net zero, respondents believe that it will take some time for the sector to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and the lockdown. Around 25% said that it will take less than a year for public and shared transport to recover to former usage levels. A small majority (55%) think that the recovery will take up to five years, while around 13% think it will take longer or might never reach former usage levels.
In terms of how emissions reductions from road transport will be achieved, respondents were quite evenly split. Travel demand reduction was seen as the likely largest contributor followed by the mass adoption of zero emission vehicle, a shift to shared/public transport and the wide adoption of low carbon fuels.
Emerging from the lockdown, a significant majority of respondents (nearly 70%) expect to reduce their own travel across most or all of their activities. Only around a quarter of respondents expect to travel as much as they did before.