Transport secretary: Covid-19 can drive green transport ‘revolution’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said the UK’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic presents a “unique opportunity” to accelerate development of a “historic” green transport revolution.

In an address made to the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s (LowCVP) Annual Conference, held this year as an online event, Shapps said that the government will fully focus its future transport strategy on fully decarbonised transport and that he believes the UK’s history of “driving change in transport” could make it a worldwide leader.

“Coronavirus has changed us, just as it has changed our world,” said Shapps. “That gives us a unique opportunity to rethink the way that we travel, to speed up the development of clean technologies and to put green recovery at the heart of our plans for the future.

“Part of the opportunity is to shift options, to impress on the country that the green transport revolution that we’ve been talking about for many years is actually happening now. Some of the transformational improvements are literally within touching distance.”

As part of measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, the government has in recent months pledged £2 billion to promote cycling and walking in a bid to cut public transport usage.

Shapps added: “There’s also an opportunity to reframe the narrative around green cars, vans, buses and trucks to show that it is this generation that will drive the transition away from fossil fuels to zero carbon road transport. A revolution no less historic than the coming of the railways or aviation.

“Low-carbon vehicles are no longer our goal; we have to decarbonise transport altogether and demonstrate that both government and industry are united in our commitment to achieve that goal. In the months ahead, you’ll see the government putting its full weight behind the net-zero campaign, behind rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in modern transport connections and scaling up ambitions as we work towards our full transport decarbonisation plan later this year.”

Other recent government initiatives include investing £12 million in developing future electric vehicles and charging technology and £10m in the installation of 7200 on-street EV charging points. Shapps also highlighted investments in battery-electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell buses, the planned introduction of green numberplates for EVs and the fast-tracking of e-scooter trials.

The government is currently holding a public consultation on plans to introduce a ban on the sale of new combustion-engined cars by 2035 – and possibly sooner – and has pledged £2.5bn to reducing road transport emissions as part of the UK’s net-zero strategy.

The LowCVP was established in 2003 as a public-private partnership comprised of more than 200 government and business organisations, with the goal of promoting a “sustainable shift” to lower-carbon vehicles. As part of Shapps’ pledge that the UK government will shift focus from low-carbon to zero-carbon transport, LowCVP boss Andy Eastlake said that the organisation will shortly undergo a rebranding to reflect this change in focus.

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