Minister's comments came as the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership announced name change to reflect shift in focus to zero carbon road transport
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has suggested a "revolution" in sustainable, climate-friendly transport is already underway in the UK, as he insisted green recovery efforts would be at the heart of the government's plans in the coming months.
Speaking at a virtual automotive industry event today, Shapps said the current generation was driving the transition to zero emission transport, a major transformation which he compared in scale to the invention of the railways and the internal combustion engine in 18th and 19th centuries.
And, with the Covid-19 crisis shifting behaviours and leading to a major uptake in cycling and walking across UK cities, Shapps said: "Now is the time for a green transport revolution."
"Part of the opportunity is to shift opinions - to impress on the country that the green transport revolution which we've been talking about for many years is actually happening now," he added. "Some of the transformational improvements are literally within touching distance."
Back in March, the Department for Transport set out its vision for the UK to become an "internationally recognised leader" in green transport to deliver net zero emissions across road, rail, shipping and aviation over the next 30 years. It included a strong onus on making public transport "the natural first choice" for daily activities with less reliance on private cars.
The move came ahead of the DfT's hotly-anticipated Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which Shapps today confirmed would come later this year and provide a major pillar of the government's post-coronavirus recovery efforts.
His comments came at an event run by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), a joint venture between government and industry aimed at accelerating the shift to net zero emission road transport.
"Through unprecedented collaboration with the extraordinary array of businesses, academic and environmental institutions that make up the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, this government is putting its full weight firmly behind the Net Zero campaign," said Shapps. "By working closely together [with industry], we are rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in cutting edge technology, and enabling a green transport recovery as we work towards our full Transport Decarbonisation Plan later in the year."
Earlier today a group of major corporates urged the government to bring forward its proposed phase out of fossil fuel car sales to 2030 to help support EV uptake, alongside a raft of stronger market signals and supply, demand and infrastructure policies. Dubbed the Electric Fleets Coalition, the group includes 21 firms such as BT, IKEA, Centrica, ENGIE, NatWest, Unilever and DPD.
The UK currently has a target to end diesel and petrol car sales by 2040, but the government has promised to bring forward that date to 2035 or earlier. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advises the government, has called for a 2032 phase out date at the latest.
Meanwhile, Andy Eastlake, LowCVP managing director, revealed at today's event that the organisation would from now on be focused on furthering the shift to zero carbon vehicles, and would therefore soon be changing its name accordingly.
"Our target must no longer be to achieve 'low carbon' road transport but to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from every stage of the whole transport system," Eastlake explained. "That's why I'm announcing today that our partnership of over 200 organisations will be changing focus from 'low' to zero carbon and will be introducing a new brand identity to better reflect our revised objective of net zero by 2050.
"We'll be working with leading partners in the next few weeks to introduce a new name that will communicate our heightened ambition but still reflect the vital role every member has in contributing to rapid decarbonisation."
The event also featured an address from National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt, who underscored the need for the government to step up its transport decarbonisation plans and stressed that a decision would soon be needed on how big a role the government sees hydrogen fuels playing in the net zero transition in order to help mobilise the necessary infrastructure investment.
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