The Policy Dragon’s Den: How to Decarbonise Road Transport

Jan 27, 2017

Time & Date
Friday 27 January 2017

13:00  |  Registration
13:30  |  Event Starts
15:00  |  Event Ends


Policy Exchange
8-10 Great George Street


Road transport underpins the UK economy, literally keeping people and goods moving around the country. It is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution. Transport accounts for just under a quarter of  total UK greenhouse gas emissions – more than the emissions from industry, the power sector, or all energy use in buildings.

Little progress has been made to reduce greenhouse emissions from transport, despite progress in reducing emissions from other sources. Emissions from domestic transport have fallen by just 3% since 1990, and actually increased slightly since 2013. Local pollution from road transport remains a problem, with large parts of London and other UK cities exceeding the legal and healthy limits for Nitrogen Oxides.

There are many different options available to decarbonise road transport including modal shift, behaviour change, further improvements in fuel efficiency, switching to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (e.g. electric, hydrogen) and alternative fuels such as biofuels or gas. Significant improvements have already been made to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, but these have largely been offset by increases in amount people drive. The take-up of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles is growing quickly, but they still represent a relatively niche part of the auto-industry.

Adopting Ultra Low Emission Vehicles presents significant challenges in terms of the upfront cost of the technology, and the required charging/ refuelling infrastructure. They also present energy system challenges – for example the challenge of generating and distributing sufficient electricity or hydrogen to power these vehicles.

Another factor which needs to be considered is the fiscal implications associated with decarbonising road transport. At present the Government raises around £33 billion per year through fuel duty and road tax. This is far higher than the cost of building and maintaining the road network and therefore road transport makes a net contribution to overall Government finances. This will change significant as the transport system is decarbonised, since both fuel duty and road tax are linked to carbon emissions. Further thought is needed about how to manage this transition and how to fund transport systems in the future.

Policy Exchange is undertaking a new research project which will explore these opportunities and challenges. As part of this, we held this ‘Dragon’s Den’ style event, in which a number of industry leaders ‘pitched’ their vision of the future of road transport, to a panel of experts.

Speakers included:

  • Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change
  • Amanda Stretton, motoring broadcaster
  • Michael Wilshire, Head of Strategy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance
  • Hugo Spowers, Chief Engineer and Founder, Riversimple
  • Andy Eastlake, Managing Director, Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership
  • Jonathan Hampson, General Manager, Zipcar

This event was kindly supported by Anglo American, the World Platinum Investment Council, Energy and Utilities Alliance, and Calor Gas


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