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01.09.16

DfT needs ‘greater commitment’ to sustainable transport – MPs

The Environmental Audit Committee has warned that the DfT risks missing key targets on making UK transport more sustainable in a new report.

The report said that the department needs to spell out more clearly and in more detail its commitments, timetable and progress on sustainable transport, and give the transport sector more ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related) commitments on sustainable transport.

The transport sector is currently set to miss the UK’s 2025 decarbonisation target – recommended by the Committee on Climate Change as the best path to the UK’s 2050 emissions reduction target – by almost 50%.

For example, ultra-low emission vehicles are expected to make up 5% of the car market by 2020, despite needing to present a 60% share by 2030, and the department has no clear plans for developing the market.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the committee, praised local authorities for developing “innovative” ideas for increasing low-emission vehicle uptake, including supporting electric and low-emission fleet procurement by underwriting risk or guaranteeing buy-back; helping workplaces invest in charging points; and introducing a national grant scheme for electric and low emission taxis.

Following the revelation that Volkswagen implemented emissions cheat test devices in some cars, the committee said that the department should set out a timetable for Volkswagen to recall the cars.

It also said that the transport secretary, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Serious Fraud Office have “let down UK VW drivers” by not conducting an investigation into the company.

The report also said that the department should work more closely with the departments of health, communities and local government and the environment, as well as with the Treasury, in order to ensure that air quality is given a greater priority in transport planning.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recently called air pollution a “public health crisis”, saying councils should have the power to create clean air zones.

It said that whilst the department’s system for assessing the environmental impact of individual transport projects is “robust”, it needs a detailed system for assessing the cumulative impact of different projects and for ensuring that environmental issues are considered below board level.

It also urged the department to ensure that air quality directives from EU law are retained in UK law after the UK leaves the European Union.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We are committed to improving air quality and reducing vehicle emissions.

“We want nearly all cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050 and are investing more than £600m in this Parliament to support the manufacture, use and uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.

“In addition, the government is creating Clean Air Zones in five city centres, electrifying the rail network which cuts emissions and supporting the development of sustainable biofuels.

“We welcome the Environmental Audit Committee’s report and will consider the recommendations and respond in due course.”

The new government’s attitude towards the environment has been criticised after one of Theresa May’s first actions as prime minister was to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

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