Four Parliamentary committees have challenged the Government on its plans, announced in last November’s budget, to electrify 25% of its departments’ car fleets by 2022.
A joint report was recently published by MPs from Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Health and Social Care, and Transport committees, highlighting the difficulty of the task faced by the Government.
“The Government should set out a procurement route map to show how it will achieve this target in the budget, and extend this commitment to cover the fleets of all departments, agencies and public bodies.”
In particular, the report focuses on fleets operated by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Out of 1,482 vehicles and 4,000 vehicles in the MoJ and Defra fleets respectively, there are only two electric vehicles being used by each department.
Neil Paris – chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee – said: “The Government’s latest plan does not present an effective response to the scale of the air quality catastrophe in the UK,” said Neil Parish, chair of the environment food and rural affairs committee.
“We are concerned that the Government is treating air quality as a box-ticking exercise. Real change will require bold, meaningful action.”
The report makes further calls for the Government to introduce a new Clean Air Act in addition to a clean air fund financed by transport industry bodies, and a national air quality support programme for local authorities.
Suggesting that the current 2040 deadline for manufacturers to end sales of petrol and diesel cars “lacked sufficient ambition”, the report also calls for a “feasibility assessment to determine the earliest date by which this could be achieved, balancing the health impacts of air pollution, with economic and practical considerations”.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggests an outright ban on old petrol and diesel vehicles could have negative impacts on the new car market, as well as the whole automotive sector, which supports over 800,000 employees in the UK. Chief executive Mike Hawes also said that the burden of improving air quality must be shared by other sectors, not the automotive industry alone.
The report also states that clean air zones (CAZs) should not be reserved as a last resort, as suggested by the Government. Local authorities should instead be empowered to introduce CAZs where necessary, with Defra and the Department for Transport performing more “robust economic impact assessments” to reduce impacts on fleet operators.
Both departments should also investigate the feasibility of allowing more time and resources to small businesses, assisting with vehicle upgrades and ensuring availability of funding to support vehicle switching is clearly signposted.
The report goes on to question whether available Clean Air Funds are adequate, proposing an additional fund for clean air initiatives – funded partially by auto industry organisations – as well as a national scrappage scheme, designated for use by fleet operators.
According to the SMMT, manufacturers are already funding their own scrappage schemes to get older vehicles off the road.
The Government announced it will publish details for its Clean Air Strategy this summer.