NIC – Government needs to decarbonise freight by 2050

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has called on the UK government to ban all diesel HGV sales by 2040, with the intent of making road and rail freight carbon emission free by 2050.

Sir John Armitt, NIC Chairman has said that it would force the industry to look at more sustainable alternatives.

The NIC report, “Better Delivery: the challenge for freight”, estimated that freight transport is set to grow by as much as 45% in the next 30 years. Van delivery miles could also grow by as much as 89%.

Road and rail freight produces around 9% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions as of now. Should carbon emissions in these sectors not be tackled this could increase to 20%. Congestion problems could also increase significantly.

Coming at the same time as the demonstrations against climate change by Extinction Rebellion, the NIC wants the government to set out its plans to cut carbon emissions from freight by 2040 within the next two years. Extinction Rebellion’s demands are far higher with a ‘zero carbon’ target of 2025.

NIC recommendations include:

– The government to prepare detailed assessments of the infrastructure needed to enable the uptake of battery electric or hydrogen lorries, and for the energy regulator Ofgem to work with the freight industry to enable charging at depots by 2025 – all to support the ban of petrol and diesel HGVs by no later than 2040.

– Clear long term targets to enable the industry to manage the transition to cleaner fuels and vehicles and take advantage of the opportunities for increased efficiency and reduced costs from new low-carbon technologies.

– The government to publish by the end of 2021 a full strategy for eliminating carbon emissions from rail freight by 2050, specifying the investments and subsidies that it will provide to get there.

– New planning guidance for local authorities by 2020 so they can incorporate effective policies and schemes for freight as part of their Local Plans and Local Transport Plans – including the provision of land or floor space for storage and distribution activities, and to maximise potential for freight trips to be made at off-peak times;

– City authorities should incorporate plans for freight as part of their long term infrastructure strategies, covering transport, employment opportunities and new homes.

– The government to develop a framework for minimum standards of freight data collection, to help support the development of the freight policies that form part of these long term infrastructure plans.

– A new Freight Leadership Council, meeting bi-annually and bringing together representatives from all freight transport types and parts of the supply chain, as well as from the Department for Transport, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Road Haulage Association has described the recommendations as lacking a clear roadmap and making assumptions about technologies and infrastructure that haven’t yet materialised.

Industry bodies such as the Road Haulage Association have welcomed the move. It will be interesting to see the government’s response.


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