COP26 announcement: Our response

It’s off! The Prime Minister and none other than David Attenborough, launched the twenty sixth Conference of the Parties (aka COP26) at an event in the Science Museum this morning, in advance of the summit to be held later this year in Glasgow. Added to this was the announcement of bringing forward the ban on petrol and diesel cars and vans, notably including hybrids, from 2040 to 2035. This is a huge step forward, and we’re really proud to have been part of it, but there are some caveats that need to be considered.

First of all, 2035 is not 2030. It might be tempting to say it’s only five years difference, electric-cars-1068918_1280but with climate change being the emergency it is, and transport emissions being far and away the largest emitting sector in the UK, we really need to ask why we aren’t using 2030 as the end date. National Grid have said that the electrical grid can support the 2030 date, and fully electric vehicles are projected to be cost competitive upfront with conventional vehicles by 2025 at the latest. In short, there is no practical reason why 2035 should be considered instead of 2030, and this seems to be a precaution against potential ‘knee jerk’ reactions. Secondly, this was just an announcement of where the government is headed with this particular policy. A full consultation will be launched following today, presumably to be resolved and adopted into full policy before COP26. This does not mean this 2035 date will be set in stone, and all details may change before the policy is actually implemented – which could be good or bad, depending on which way the outcome goes.

That’s where DecarboniseNow stands, but what are we doing about it? Following up on our existing lobbying, we will be a voice in the consultation, urging the government to go faster, and outlining our ideas on how the phase out will work. We will press the government to move the ban to 2030, build up a coalition of campaigns, businesses and other interested players, and ensure the ban is enforceable, whilst making sure there are immediate measures to ensure the takeup of EVs. Even if all of this goes through, we will still be doing everything we can to ensure the rapid take-up of fully electric vehicles. But is that everything that DecarboniseNow will be doing in the future?

We also have something else to announce. DecarboniseNow is expanding its campaigns beyond electric cars. Now that we have more resources, we’re going to be expanding into a variety of low carbon campaigns. We will soon be launching campaigns on retrofitting homes, low carbon heating, wind and solar, public transport, electricity grid flexibility, resource efficiency, afforestation, HGVs, and industrial energy efficiency. This will be quite an expansion of our campaigns, but we feel we’re up to the challenge! More details to follow soon – watch this space.

In the meantime, we’re proud of the difference we’ve made, and thanks to all those who’ve helped us out so far!

Europe is stepping up its commitments on clean transport. We need to do the same.

As Elon Musk orders the first diggers into Germany to build his first European gigafactory, many British shoulders slumped in, if not shame, resigned disappointment. It seemed inevitable that the ‘home of the car’ would be welcoming gleaming Tesla Model S, X, Y and 3s off the production line, and whatever other model named after a random keyboard punch Elon designs in the future. That’s not too much of a bad thing globally. Germany emits more CO2 than the UK and France combined, and with the largest car market on the continent, it would be no bad thing for the country to switch over quickly to cleaner transport. The ‘er’ signifies the fact that the UK will phase out its coal plants to power these new vehicles in six years at the latest, as opposed to Germany’s nineteen, but that’s another story. Germany isn’t alone in this, in fact, the EU as a whole is starting to take a much stronger interest in decarbonising transport than previously.

 

tesla-car-electric-mobility-plug-battery
With a new Tesla gigafactory there, Germany can expect more of its car parks to look like this in the future.

From 2021, the EU will introduce new rules on automotive maker’s rules, stating that the average emissions of CO2 per vehicle sold from companies must be 95g per km, or large fines will loom. The easiest way of avoiding these for car companies are to build a certain number of electric vehicles to balance out their sales, hence there are a large number of manufacturers unveiling new electric models prior to 2021. But EU rules don’t specify any particular countries this need apply to, and the expectations is that sales will be higher in the more affluent car markets of France, Germany and other Western European countries. The result is that once the UK leaves the EU single market, there will be no requirements for car manufactures to do the same for the UK, and could likely to prioritise investing in the car markets of other countries.

 

Therefore, the UK while outside of the EU needs to maintain a competitive edge and showcase that there will be a large demand for electric vehicles in the UK market. No other market of a comparative size has a 2030 ban on conventional vehicles, which would go some way to making the UK among the most electric vehicle hungry countries in the world. The only EU countries with an earlier phase out date are the smaller markets of the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Ireland, with non-EU countries such as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland also in this group. This ban would not be sufficient on its own – EU regulations are progressively implementing stricter emissions targets from 2021, so there would still be more immediate incentives for auto manufacturers. But this would send a strong signal to markets that the UK is committed to a total shift away from petrol and diesel vehicles. Additionally, the 2030 ban could be the start of a wider range of measures to phase out conventional vehicles, with the 2030 ban representing an end date and similar additional targets for auto manufacturers in intervening years to shape the direction of travel.

The future of the UK’s car industry will be shaped enormously by the wider decisions made in the politics surrounding Brexit. But the UK can and must still take action in areas in which it can control, whether our driver of 2030 is buying a German made Tesla or a British made electric Mini. The UK has a history of lagging behind in the car industry, but equally, a history of being far ahead of its European neighbours in new low emission technologies. Britain does have some disadvantages in the car industry, but there’s no reason why its policy on the type of vehicles on sale in the country have to match. Not only can the UK match the EU’s ambition on electric vehicles, there is no reason why it should not overtake it. A 2030 ban in the EU is unlikely due to having to pass through the decision making process of many more countries, and no such policy is outlined in the EU’s Green New Deal. The UK has the right political atmosphere to make a 2030 phase-out work, especially as the current government has pledged to review it, and there is no reason why interim targets cannot be more stringent than our European neighbours.

 

 

 

December update: Merry Election!

Christmas may not be turning out quite a relaxed as many of us expected to be. However, with an election underway, it gives a good opportunity to take stock of where political parties are when it coming to phasing out polluting cars and vans. Particularly as we’ve just had the first of hopefully many more climate debates!

The Conservatives: The party have pledged to review the current 2040 mission to phase out conventional vehicles, but don’t declare an official position. At the Conservative Party Conference of 2019, then transport secretary Grant Shapps stated that he would ask the cabinet for a 2035 phase out. The party also wants to invest £1bn in Signpost, political partiesrapid charging infrastructure, and have at least one gigafactory in the UK.

Labour: Labour do support our goal, but the wording of the manifesto states they will aim for a 2030 ban, as opposed to a more stringent statement from other parties. Their manifesto also states a wide and detailed range of further incentives for electric vehicles to make up two thirds of the light vehicle fleet by 2030. Labour also commits to funding new charging infrastructure, and having three new gigafactories in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats: Their manifesto says that the party will ensure conventional cars and vans will face a ban by 2030. They also outline a range of further incentives for EVs between now and 2030, which include cutting VAT and tax reform to make electric vehicles cheaper.

The Brexit Party: No policy.

The Green Party: The Green Party fully support a ban on conventional cars and vans by 2030. Their manifesto aims to provide incentives for electric vans, coaches and lorries, and prioritises reducing car usage more than other parties.

The Scottish National Party: The SNP advocate the whole of the UK to follow Scotland’s 2032 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles. It also supports further incentives such as tax incentives and loans.

Plaid Cymru: The party supports phasing out conventional cars by 2030. This does not include vans, and it is unclear whether phasing out means a ban on or simply a majority of cars to be electric by 2030.

(Note that no party distinguishes defines what ‘conventional’ vehicles mean, allowing for future hybrid variants of vehicles that go against our campaign goals and will lead to higher emissions and make it harder to get to net zero).

So that does this all mean for DecarboniseNow? Whichever party comes into power, we are still determined to follow through on our campaign goals. Our starting point will however be different depending on the manifesto commitments above. Securing a binding ban will be our priority for parties that do not have this in their manifestos, and for parties that already have one, assisting them in implementing and designing this will be our main priority, including phasing out hybrid vehicles. Either way, we are determined that the next government will be signing up to one of the most ambitious transport decarbonisation policies anywhere in the world, and take an enormous leap forward in ending our contribution to climate change.

In the next month, we’ll continue to build up a coalition of allies who support our goal, reaching out to relevant industries. We’ll also be in touch with the new government and transport minister to set out our goal for their new government. We’re also aiming to build a wider media campaign in the New Year – keep an ear to the ground for more! We hope you enjoy Christmas and we will see you in 2020.

New campaign launched!

DecarboniseNow is pleased to announce today we have a new campaign to focus on. By 2030 or earlier, we want to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars and vans across the UK, ushering in an electric vehicle revolution. We’re revamped the website a fair bit too. Click on the ‘Campaigns’ tab to find out more, and how you can get involved. Any questions? Well we’ve also got a new feedback form on the ‘Talk to Us’ tab – drop us a line! In the meantime, we look forward to more adventures in the future to Decarbonise the UK Now.

 

 

Opinion: The Red or Green Light to the UK’s Car Revolution

The Red or Green Light to the UK’s Car Revolution

By Tom Baker

Air pollution has been linked to around 40,000 deaths per year within the UK, a staggering sum which underlines the risk and scale of poor air quality in the UK. Consequently, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, stated that Britain ‘can’t carry on’ with petrol and diesel cars due to the damage they inflict on both the environment and people’s health.

A solution is to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars in the UK from 2040. This IMG_0765comes under a plan to remove these vehicles off the roads altogether by 2050, with electric or hybrid cars taking their place. Additionally, the government is going to provide £255m available to local authorities in the hope that they will remove diesel cars off the most polluted roads, improve their public transport and make changes to their road layouts. This can be done in the form of simply removing speed humps to prevent the repeatedly slowing and speeding up of cars, which can almost double the amount of emissions released.

The government’s aspiration is to target those high polluting hot spots and help councils clean up their local emissions, in the attempt to tackle the national air quality issue. Since the legislation came out, councils have eight months to generate their plans, with their final projects being produced by the end of this year.

But what does this really mean?

It can be argued that this is too little, too late, with organisations like Greenpeace highlighting that we still must wait another 22 years before any action actually occurs in addressing the environmental and public health emergency. Similar processes are occurring elsewhere, such as in Germany, India and the Netherlands, however, their aims are to have the ban implemented by 2030. Additionally, if a diesel and petrol car was bought before 2040, then it can still be driven on the roads of the UK after 2040. This piece of legislation simply provides a deadline for the providers to generate more environmentally friendly vehicles in the hope of eventually turning our roads green.

Consideration must also be placed on whether high polluting cars will be desired after 2040, disregard of this new law. Just over 10 years ago the first and only electric car went on sale in Britain – the G-Wizz. Five years later the Tesla Model S began to be developed. If we look to 2040, it can be highly likely that an electric car will be as cheap and practical as a petrol or diesel vehicle. Consequently, these governmental actions on tackling these pressing issues are positive, however they may not be entirely beneficial, as changes will naturally occur. It must be noted that these laws will speed up innovation and put pressure on companies to develop an affordable and practical zero emission vehicle.

A major area of concern surrounds the infrastructure needed to support the promotion of electric vehicles. If this is not addressed, the plan of adopting hybrid and electric vehicles will not work. There are currently around 125 000 plug-in electric cars in the UK, but only 14 000 chargers, with only 2,620 of these being rapid chargers (give a car 80% charge in 30 minutes). The worry is, that with the desired rise in use of electric cars, will there be enough charging docks and infrastructure to cope with the capacity? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, has announced there will be a £400m fund to develop electric car charging infrastructure across the UK. A £40m donation will also go towards charging research. Consequently, this hopes to eliminate the so called ‘range anxiety’ linked with the lack of charging infrastructure within the UK.

The second infrastructure concern is the strain the rise of electric cars will have on Britain’s electricity supply. The rise in electric vehicles has the potential to put massive pressures on the UK’s national grid, with peak demand being said to increase by more than the capacity of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station by 2030, according to the National Grid. They also predict that there will a rise in dependence on imported electricity, which places concerns surrounding energy security. Ultimately, the government needs to realise these issues and simultaneously address the energy supply problems, while still promoting electric and hybrid cars.

Not all doom and gloom

Although this article underpins the concerns and issues with the UK car revolution, turning to hybrids, hydrogen powered, and electric vehicles is indeed a positive start at addressing the current environmental and health issues. Furthermore, the correct investments are occurring at a local base in order to tackle polluting hot spots. Time will tell what the differing council plans will be and the success of their outcomes.

Furthermore, there is a drive by the UK government to tackle the infrastructure worries, shown by the large sums of money which have already been invested into incorporating more chargers across the UK.

Opinion: Does the UK have it tougher?

Does the UK have it tougher?

By Chris Friedler

Getting almost 200 countries to agree on anything is, it seems, to put it mildly, quite difficult. With reducing emissions, one essential barrier alongside economic status, effective governance, political will, cultural values and whatever else is simply these two things – what the makeup of emissions in a country is, and how much that country can take emissions out of the atmosphere. These can vary hugely between countries, so is it the case that the UK could be at a disadvantage from other countries tackling the same crisis?

Starting with the makeup of emissions, the UK in 2016 had a pretty mixed picture from the four biggest sectors, looking like this:

Graphuk

If we glance around at other countries, we can quickly see the picture looks totally different:

Graphusa

Graphfrance

Graphgermany.png

The USA has made much slower progress nationally than the UK in implementing new renewable power, although that hides much more progress in regions within the US. With the US’s dependency on petrol based cars and trucks, transport emissions are clearly more of a problem, and with a warmer climate, heating emissions from buildings are far smaller. Germany meanwhile has even more problems with emissions from electricity, struggling far more than the UK and US in closing down the coal fired power plants on which it currently relies, despite an impressive renewable capacity. France has quite the reversal of problems, with a very small amount of emissions from the power sector, with the emphasis being more on transport and a much larger contribution from agriculture than the other countries here. From Germany’s coal plants to France’s polluting fields from Norway’s industrial emissions to Ireland’s agriculture, every country can tell a different story about where their climate priorities are. And that isn’t even including developing or transition countries from the major players like China and India to moderate Iran and Saudi Arabia to minor like Kenya and Tanzania.

So why point out these differences, like a countrified version of top trumps (there’s a pun to about a certain president there)? First of all, it is important to remember that while all countries need to decarbonise power, transport and so on, their priorities will be in wildly different places depending on how their emissions are made up. But most of all, solutions for the power and transport sectors are easier to address than those for industry and agriculture. Most forms of renewable and low carbon power are or are rapidly approaching cost competitiveness, with widespread deployment across the world – there are very few solutions currently for decarbonising iron and steel smelting, and realistic cost competitive and tested solutions are still far off.

So does the UK have it particularly tough here? Both power and transport IMG_0253(technologically anyway) have clear solutions in low carbon power and electric vehicles, so while countries like Germany and France may have a higher or lower proportion respectively of emissions from power, the corresponding emissions from transport tend to balance it out with the UK, meaning many countries emit around half of their emissions from these two sectors. There are certainly countries that can sway this – Poland’s emissions are dominated from the power sector and Ireland’s from the agriculture sector, but overall the UK is in much the same boat as comparable countries.

OK, but what about ways to take emissions out of the atmosphere? The UK is a small, densely populated country. Surely countries like Canada and Sweden, with their forests, can use their land space to absorb carbon as a sink? That’s certainly true. Canada technically is a ‘net negative’ country, meaning that any emissions that it emits and more will be absorbed by the quantity of their forests and other terrain. But most countries aren’t Canada – while the UK and other countries’ ability to reduce carbon by absorbing it straight back into the land is very welcome, few countries are scarcely populated enough for this to give a sufficient advantage. France, Germany and many of our European neighbours like us have negligible emissions reduced this way.

The UK is not a hard done by country that the rest of the world has picked on when it comes to climate change – nor is it a rich country complaining loudly for no reason. The story of the UK looking wistfully over the sea to wonder if other countries are getting on easier with this ‘climate change thing’ is a human one. The other man’s grass is always greener, so they say. The UK’s problems are different, sure, to other countries – but for the most part, similar in the way we approach them. And even if the UK did have a particularly difficult time getting emissions down, it probably matter anyway. After all, it doesn’t matter where this pollution comes from – it’s still pollution, and it recognises no national boundaries.

Opinion: Why Businesses should report carbon emissions

Why Businesses should report carbon emissions.

By Polly Green

The reporting of carbon emissions is not a new operation implemented in the battle to reduce the greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. There are already institutions and agreements in place such as the Emissions Trading Scheme in the European Union, and the UK’s Companies Act which require various companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Along with these implements, comes the gradual yet necessary transition to a low carbon future, this transformation of the economy is becoming more widespread and necessary than ever before. At this point it is not a matter of if, but of when, as we have no choice but to improve our efficiency, and sustainability. In order to minimise the risk of a completely chaotic future in business, where companies miss the opportunity to transform, and therefore cannot compete with those that have carbon reporting, businesses will need to report emissions. A worldwide transparency of greenhouse gas production would allow societies to adapt together and encourage the individual and corporation to make the vital changes needed.

The economic benefits of reporting emissions are not solely advantageous to the environment. One may believe that reporting company emissions will increase its transparency, exploiting the institution’s poor sustainable business model therefore loosing customer loyalty and investment. This in fact is not the case, as emerging research from the European Centre For Corporate Engagement shows a significant and negative relation between disclosing CO2 emission levels and the cost of bank loans, and more favourable lending conditions for those who voluntarily disclose. As well as this, the disclosure of information and the research towards it is beneficial in portraying carbon emissions as a serious metric and performance indicator, and those businesses that pioneer this movement, will be favoured by both individuals and stakeholders.

Businesses have the moral duty to report their carbon emissions, as this improves transparency for investors and individuals to make certain choices in the future regarding their loyalty and safe investment. With society becoming more aware of the detrimental effects deriving from global warming, customers will favour businesses which aim to reduce their emissions and can publicly prove a track record of constant improvement. Investors, with the use of standard measurements provided by organisations such as the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, can safely comprehend and compare companies using the emissions reports. When the transition to a low carbon future becomes more evident, those which haven’t published their emission figures will be seen in a different light. This transparency therefore reflects an impressive business model built on trust, improvement and future orientated thinking.

The improvement in transparency provides a starting point for businesses to transform, and adapt to a low carbon future. Sustainability consultancy firms (such as Carbon Smart) assist in spotting inefficiencies, saving money and convert the idea of reducing emissions from a compliance, into a successful business strategy. With hundreds of case studies already proving advantageous business impacts, there is no doubt that reporting and reducing emissions is beneficial.

Criticism of carbon reporting comes from stakeholders complaining of methodological weakness, as well as the risk of double counting from reports. It is all well and good encouraging carbon reporting, but in order for it to be worthwhile and impact investor decisions there must be a credible way of reporting carbon emissions, providing transparent and standardised reporting to bring about change. More recently, there has been pressure for firms to also report their carbon reserves, due to new theories of unburnable carbon and stranded assets proving how these fossil fuels cannot be extracted in a below two degree scenario. In summary, a credible, transparent carbon reporting structure is required to bring about a sustained change from businesses, which they have a moral obligation to comply with.