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Government’s Road to Zero Strategy falls short, CCC says

Transportation accounts for a higher overall share of greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector of the economy. This must change if the UK is to meet its legally-binding commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 80% in 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

The Government’s Road to Zero Strategy, published by the Department for Transport yesterday, increases Government ambition to see more ultra-low emission cars on UK roads by 2030 – up from 30%-70% of sales to 50%-70% by 2030. However, it leaves the ambition for new vans, at up to 40% of sales in 2030, at too low a level.

It also commits to improving the availability of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs), ensuring that new build homes are EV-ready and installing charging infrastructure in new lamp posts in areas with on-road parking – a welcome step.

Road to Zero confirms that the Government intends to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. The Government expects the majority of new cars and vans sold in the UK will be zero emission by 2040 and that all new cars and vans will then have significant zero emission capability. However, it does not clarify what this means and falls short of the Committee’s recommendation to set a minimum zero emission range for plug-in hybrids by 2035.


The CCC commends Road to Zero for:

  • the intention to provide continuing financial support for Ultra Low-Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) to foster the emerging market for EVs and to incentivise people to choose electric vehicles over conventional cars.
  • new measures to tackle emissions from HGVs. Until now, there has been no policy to reduce emissions from this sector. Industry must now deliver on its commitment to meet a voluntary emissions target – a 15% reduction by 2025. This should be closely monitored, with an option to introduce tougher measures if progress is off track.
  • the commitment to improving the availability of charging infrastructure, including ensuring new build homes are electric-vehicle ready and installing charging infrastructure in new lamp posts in areas with on-road parking.
  • a growing focus on the opportunities of moving towards ULEVs; including improved air quality and quieter streets.


Road to Zero falls short in a number of areas including:

  • lack of clarity over the stated aim to end the sale of conventional cars and vans in 2040. Leaving open the possibility of sales of conventional hybrids and very short range plug-in hybrids in 2040 and following years is inconsistent with the UK’s climate change commitments. To meet the Government’s stated goal of every car and van being zero emission in 2050, only pure battery electric vehicles and long range plug in hybrids can be sold after 2035, enabling the majority of journeys to be completed in electric mode.
  • uncertainty about whether the Government intends to remain part of the EU framework for car, van and HGV emissions standards should the UK leave the EU. The current car and van EU framework expires in 2020/1, and the UK will need to act swiftly to introduce a new set of regulations to avoid becoming a repository for the EU’s most polluting vehicles. Clarity is needed about whether the UK will be part of these EU standards long-term.
  • an absence of measures to address the fast-growing market for higher emitting vehicles, including Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). The popularity of SUVs is cancelling out emissions savings from improvements in technology, with potentially serious implications for meeting the UK’s carbon budgets.
  • a failure to incentivise the purchase of electric and hybrid vans, despite the fact that new models with longer electric range are well suited to the needs of urban van drivers. Emissions from vans are growing faster than those from any other form of transport.
  • Whilst the new WLTP vehicle-testing procedure should reduce the gap between test and real-world emissions, the Road to Zero Strategy does not recognise potential weaknesses in the new regime, nor the need to reinforce the test with real driving emissions testing or monitoring of data from fuel consumption emissions.
  • The intention to review the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles over time is welcome, but delaying this until 2025 is much too late to consider interventions if insufficient progress is being made.


The Committee will produce an in-depth analysis of the Road to Zero Strategy later this year.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “Overall, Road to Zero falls short of our expectations. The Committee had hoped for a ground-breaking Strategy to tackle emissions from transport – now the most polluting sector of the UK economy. Road to Zero has not risen to the task. We commend the ambition to ramp up the number of electric vehicles on our roads by 2030, and the new charging infrastructure in homes and streets, but there are plenty of missed opportunities too. Relying on the private sector to effect the shift to zero emission vehicles by 2040 is risky – we had hoped for greater clarity on Government actions to back this up and to ensure plug-in hybrids sold in the UK travel further in electric mode on a single charge.”