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Zemo Conference 2021

The response to the Government Transport Decarbonisation Plan at the Zemo Partnership Conference 2021

The Government Transport Decarbonisation Plan was the focus of the Zemo Partnership Annual Conference 2021 and the consensus was that it should be commended for being ambitious, but there’s also the opportunity to further accelerate progress towards net zero.

Held online on Tuesday 20 July 2021 with an audience of almost 1,000 delegates, the Zemo Partnership Annual Conference was chaired by James Murray, Editor-in-Chief of Business Green; here’s a quick summary of some of the key content from the event.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of where we’re heading: in 2030 the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and light vans will end; in 2035 the sale of new plug-in hybrid cars and light vans will end (details to be confirmed); and the Transport Decarbonisation Plan has proposed that the sale of new HGVs powered by fossil fuels will end by 2040. The plan also recommends a ZEV mandate – an action plan for how cars and vans will achieve the 2030 and 2035 targets. There’s also £1.3bn earmarked for investment in EV infrastructure.

Philip Sellwood, Chair of the Zemo Partnership, said we should welcome the plan as it is world leading, ambitious, comprehensive and integrated.

Rachel Maclean MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, explained that the Government has set the direction with the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, but it won’t be able to do it alone, and will need partners such as Zemo to help deliver it.

Dr Bob Moran, Deputy Director, Head of Environment Strategy, Department for Transport, answered questions and talked about the Government consultation on regulatory options, including zero emission vehicle mandates, to deliver petrol and diesel phase out dates for new vehicles; there’s a 10 week consultation period, so submit your comments now.

Ben Lane, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Zap-Map, looked back at where we’ve come from over the last 20 years, and also highlighted that the UK now has 25,000 charging devices (and 5,000 rapid devices – with 350kW ultra-rapid chargers being rolled out).

David Bunch, Chair, Shell UK said that a new EV charging station had taken two years to get planning permission; James Murray made the point that this is 20% of the available time before we stop selling internal combustion engine cars and vans. It would be helpful if the planning system was more streamlined…

Sir Dieter Helm CBE, Professor, Economic Policy, Oxford University and author of ‘Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change’ made the point that emissions are still rising and we need to reduce our carbon consumption in order to stand any chance of achieving net zero. We’re living beyond our sustainable means and carbon pricing will be required to provide an incentive to change.

A panel session included Michael Hurwitz, Director of Development, Mobility at Arrival, a manufacturer of electric commercial vehicles and buses that’s aiming to make EVs at the same price as ICE equivalents and is developing decentralised micro-factories close to where the vehicles are used.

Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, discussed road pricing, which he saw as an economic necessity to pay for roads as fuel duty and VED revenues fall due to increasing uptake of EVs. The suggestion was that road pricing could help to incentivise drivers to use roads at times to reduce congestion and pollution.

Professor Jillian Anable, Chair in Transport & Energy, Institute of Transport Studies, University of Leeds, looked at changing people’s behaviours in order to ‘take people with us to zero emissions’. People are at different stages of the zero emissions journey, with many not ready for radical change. Jillian said that people can’t trust information from manufacturers when buying a car, especially regarding how eco-friendly they are; we need to provide information and address lies and myths.

Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Zemo Partnership, concluded by inviting organisations to collaborate to help deliver the government’s targets as rapidly as possible, as the next 5-10 years are critical to achieve the significant reductions required in emissions from transport.

Paul Clarke, Green Car Guide’s Founder and Editor, was asked to submit a short video before the event with thoughts about what was at that point the forthcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan; Paul’s key message was that we need to think bigger and bolder, and it turns out that this view also reflected Andy Eastlake’s closing remarks.

Paul Clarke