Government ‘green plan’ puts faith in emissions-free flying


The UK government is putting its faith in innovation with predictions that claim domestic flights will be emissions-free by 2040, according to its Transport Decarbonisation Plan released today. 

With just months to go until major climate summit COP26, the plan claims to provide a world-leading ‘greenprint’ to cut emissions from our seas and skies, roads and railways, setting out a pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net-zero by 2050.

However, the policy has been ridiculed by environmentalists who say the government is putting far too much faith in innovation. They say demand for flying and driving must be curbed if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets.

As part of its vision, the Government is planning to phase out the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) by 2040, combined with the 2035 phase-out date for polluting cars and vans. Ministers say new technology will allow domestic flights to be emissions-free by 2040, and international aviation to be zero carbon by mid century.

Electric cars will also have smart charging that interacts with the power grid enabling drivers to top up when there’s plenty of cheap renewable energy.

Says UK Transport Secretary and former pilot Grant Shapps:

“Transport is not just how you get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, cities, and countryside, our living standards and our health. It can shape all those things for good, or for bad. Decarbonisation is not just some technocratic process. It’s about how we make sure that transport shapes quality of life and the economy in ways that are good.

“It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero-emission cars.

“The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is just the start – we will need continued efforts and collaboration to deliver its ambitious commitments, which will ultimately create sustainable economic growth through healthier communities as we build back greener.”

However, critics say that while the strategy is ambitious in some respects, it is not credible overall.

Greg Archer, from the green group Transport and Environment, told the BBC: “The government must level with the public that to avoid dangerous climate change there will have to be fewer cars, less driving and many fewer flights.” Chris Todd from Transport Action Network added: “We need coherent steps not contradictory actions. After “decades of dither and delay in cutting transport emissions”, the Department for Transport “remains unable to face up to the facts or take hard choices,” he said. 

Chris Price
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