UK government aims to decarbonize domestic transportation by 2050

The UK has ambitious — and laudable — goals for cleaning up domestic transportation. 


Land Rover/Screenshot by Craig Cole/Roadshow

The UK is aiming to drastically reduce emissions produced by its transportation sector, and it has a plan to do this. The country’s Department for Transport announced on Wednesday a proposal that “provides a world-leading ‘greenprint’ to cut emissions from our seas and skies, roads and railways, setting out a credible pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net zero by 2050.”

This will be no small feat, but to cut the carbon, this eco-friendly strategy adds to the country’s proposed ban on the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and vans by the year 2035 with a similar prohibition on heavy delivery vehicles (in excess of 26 metric tons) by 2040, subject to consultation with industry. 

Large trucks and their burly diesel engines burn a lot of fuel and can release commensurately huge amounts of noxious fumes, so switching them to electric power could go a long way toward cleaning up the environment. These separate vehicular embargoes would basically eliminate the sale of new combustion-powered vehicles in the UK over the next two decades.

Beyond roadways, other transport sectors are set to receive a thorough greening. The UK aims to make domestic aviation net zero by 2040 and do the same to its rail network just 10 years after that. Billions of pounds will also be spent to make cycling and walking more appealing, and billions more to help drivers switch to cleaner vehicles.

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

Aside from cleaning the air and addressing the climate crisis, this Earth-friendly transportation scheme is expected to create plenty of green jobs. Tens of thousands of new positions could be supported just in building future zero-emissions road vehicles, the government says.

The UK wants to be ambitious in its goals to clean up the environment ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, aka COP26, which is taking place in the UK later this year. This “greenprint” could be one other nations will follow as they wrestle with carbon emissions and climate change.


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