The Government’s pledge to go ‘further and faster to tackle climate change’ has taken a blow after the Department for Transport (DfT) admitted its flagship transport decarbonisation plan has been delayed.
Originally due to be published by the end of this year, the plan is now due ‘in Spring 2021’, according to a statement on the DfT website.
The DfT did publicise the introduction of what it is calling ‘green number plates’ for zero emission vehicles, which was also delayed.
The plates were due to be rolled out in the autumn and are not entirely green.
Ministers hope that the presence of a small green flash at one end will ‘raise awareness of the increasing number of cleaner vehicles on our roads [and] could also unlock a number of incentives for drivers’, such as ‘cost-free entry into zero-emission zones’
As Transport Network has reported, the technology used to monitor zero emission zones will depend on a car’s registration number, not the colour of a small area of the number plate.
Nevertheless, transport minister Rachel Maclean said: ‘We are going further and faster than any other major economy to decarbonise transport.’
When transport secretary Grant Shapps launched the decarbonisation plan in October 2019, the DfT cited ‘plans to strengthen governance to galvanise the whole of government to do more to tackle climate change and a bold and ambitious plan to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport’.
At that time, the DfT said that ‘the groundwork for the Transport Decarbonisation Plan will start immediately, with the department publishing a document setting out the challenge later this year’. That document was in fact published in March.
Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: 'We’re disappointed that the publication of the plan has been pushed back to next spring.
'Decarbonising transport is crucial to meeting our net zero obligations, so the Government must ensure there is no further delay in making transport fit for the future. The sooner we start making progress on the road to decarbonisation the better for our health and the planet’s.'
Jenny Bates, climate, transport and air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: 'Transport is the biggest sector for climate-wrecking emissions so there’s no justification for delaying plans to decarbonise. It’s really important that this plan doesn’t let road traffic, aviation and shipping off the hook when it comes to fighting the climate crisis.
'This means an end to damaging road building and airport expansion plans, with support instead going to projects that make it easier for people to walk, cycle and take public transport.'
Despite a series of recent high-profile announcements on climate change from the prime minister, including a new target for reducing carbon emissions by 2030, campaigners have pointed out that the Government’s transport policies are likely to lead to increased carbon emissions.
It has been revealed that the construction and use of the Lower Thames Crossing will add five million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere while ministers were also criticised for cutting funding for rail enhancements by £1bn.