Transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick announced a programme of funding to procure green vans for public sector fleets and kickstart the market for low carbon vehicles.
The move has been welcomed, but amid criticism that the Government is still not doing enough to tackle climate change.
Initially, £20 million – originally proposed under the Low Carbon Innovation Strategy earlier this year – will be available for trials of the procurement programme, with a further £30 million available in the future.
“Bringing cleaner, greener vehicles on to the market as soon as possible is a priority for the Government, but we want to direct our efforts where they will have the biggest impact in reducing emissions and tackling climate change,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.
“Vans account for around 15% of carbon emissions from road transport, but currently there are no mass market low carbon models on offer to the UK van buyer – although the technology to create them exists.
“By using the public sector’s considerable purchasing power, we aim to give investors and manufacturers confidence in the existence of a market for lower carbon vans, to encourage them to bring them to market more quickly than they would do otherwise.
“This could have a big impact in cutting carbon emissions.”
However, Tony Bosworth, senior transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “The Department for Transport (DfT) has got to do a lot more if it wants to be credible about tackling climate change.
“This has got to be part of a concerted, coherent programme and that’s something we’re still not getting.”
The programme will be delivered on behalf of the DfT by a low carbon vehicle specialist partner, due to be appointed early next year.
Initial public sector participants are expected to include the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London, the Government Car and Despatch Agency and the Royal Mail.