Professor Julia King has highlighted the need for fleets – and public sector fleets in particular - to adopt less polluting vehicles in her second report on decarbonising road transport.
The report contains recommendations that will shape future Government transport policy and, through a carrot and stick approach, force us all into less polluting cars.
The report’s impact on future road transport policy will be substantial.
In fact the timing of its publication coincided with Chancellor’s 2008 Budget statement, which contained policies directly related to some of her 40 recommendations.
Several of those recommendations are aimed at influencing user chooser decisions on which car to select, as well as encouraging public sector fleets into cleaner cars.
All public bodies should set the average emissions of new vehicles procured for administrative purposes to 130g/km by 2010-11, she said.
In addition, the report states that public sector bodies should have a workplace travel plan in place by 2010 and that local authorities should promote car clubs.
“The Department for Transport should also raise awareness of car clubs so that people can make informed decisions over whether they are an appropriate option for them,” says Prof King.
In addition, the report recommends that the Department for Transport should promote the benefits of undertaking training in more efficient driving techniques.
Influencing motorists’ choice of cars is also key says Prof King.
To encourage the uptake of greener cars, she recommends that motorists should be provided with clear and easy to understand information on the running costs and emissions of different vehicles.
This must be backed up by “strong and consistent price signals” from Government to encourage people to choose the vehicle with the lowest CO2 emissions that will meet their needs.
However, she says any price incentives must be based on carbon emissions rather than technology.
And that these incentives should not encourage people to drive more by making it easier or cheaper to do so.
Zero emission electric vehicles are highlighted, with Prof King saying that options that facilitate the efficient use of electric vehicles, such as smart-metering, time-of-day pricing, and fast charging points, should be introduced.
The report also says the Department for Transport should force dealers to use emissions labels on second-hand as well as new cars and vans, once the required information on CO2 emissions is published for all new vans.
Controversially, the report also says that colour-coded tax discs should be introduced that reflect the CO2 emissions of the vehicle.
The discs should be based on the vehicle excise duty bands, for example using a traffic light approach with different coloured discs for vehicles with lower, average and higher emissions.
Prof King targets vehicle advertising saying it needs to be strengthened so that information on CO2 emissions and fuel economy is presented in a more prominent and consistent form.
She also recommends that children should learn how driving contributes to CO2 emissions.
In just five years’ time Professor King says we could be driving cars that emit 30% less CO2 per kilometre.
“Towards 2030, reductions of around 50% are achievable, with the largest contribution likely to come from vehicle technologies, including battery-electric hybrids, and small reductions from both lower carbon fuels (including limited introduction of sustainable biofuels) and more environmentally aware consumer behaviour,” she says.
"While the challenge is urgent and sizeable, the message is that substantial decarbonisation of transport looks achievable.”
Already she points to a number of new cars that produce less than 130g/km of CO2, which have been launched since part one of her report was published.
“Reducing CO2 emissions from road transport requires action from everyone,” says Prof King.
“Government has to coordinate efforts in an international context and provide the leadership to allocate responsibilities amongst vehicle manufacturers, fuel companies and consumers.”
Prof King pulls no punches in her report: “A challenge on this scale requires all sectors, including road transport, to make urgent and substantial progress in reducing CO2 emissions,” she said.
“The costs of stabilising the climate are significant but manageable – delay would be dangerous and much more costly.”
The report points out that policies are required to change motorists’ habits. “There is a gap between people’s attitudes towards the environment and their actions through their choice of vehicle and the way they drive,” it says.
“Consumers discount heavily fuel efficiency savings, so future savings from choosing a more efficient vehicle are not fully reflected in purchase decisions.”