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Transport strategy

South East can lead the way on zero carbon transport – but switch to clean fuels alone isn’t enough to hit 2050 target

South East can lead the way on zero carbon transport – but switch to clean fuels alone isn’t enough to hit 2050 target

A partnership of the South East’s civic and business leaders has welcomed the government’s plan to decarbonise all modes of domestic transport – but says that relying on the switch to zero-emissions fuels alone won’t be enough for the UK to meet its 2050 net-zero carbon target. 

The Transport Decarbonisation Plan sets out world-leading commitments to end the sale of all new, polluting vans and lorries by 2040 and net zero aviation emissions by 2050. This is in addition to the existing ban on the sale of all new diesel, petrol and hybrid cars from 2035.

While these are indeed bold and welcome commitments, research carried out by Transport for the South East – which brings together local councils, local enterprise partnerships and transport bodies from across the region – shows that even under the most optimistic scenario for the conversion of road vehicles to zero emissions by 2050, there will still be considerable residual carbon emissions from road transport in our region, particularly from freight.

Transport for the South East says that while the plans for the switch to zero-emissions fuels are hugely positive, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan must be supported by wider investment to get more people out of their cars, more freight onto rail and better joined up planning of new housing and employment to encourage more sustainable transport choices.

Cllr Keith Glazier, chair of Transport for the South East, said:

“This plan demonstrates the government’s clear commitment to ensuring we have a cleaner, greener transport network that’s fit for the future. We’re committed to working with our partners both nationally and here in the South East to drive the changes needed to decarbonise our transport network – but those changes can and must go further than switching the kinds of fuels that our vehicles use.

Our transport strategy makes clear that we cannot continue to accommodate ever-growing levels of traffic on the South East’s roads. We need to think and plan smarter as well as greener so we can lead the way on decarbonising our country’s transport network.

“By investing in world-beating public transport, cycle and walking infrastructure and making it easier than ever for people to plan and pay for trips from door to destination, we can cut congestion on our roads, improve air quality and quality of life in our towns and cities and drive sustainable economic growth for people and businesses across the South East.”

Transport for the South East brings together the region’s local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and transport partners to determine what transport investment is needed to boost the region’s economy and drive sustainable economic growth.

It is currently developing a thirty-year investment plan which will include improvements to bus and railways, new connections and journey opportunities to reduce car-dependency and simple, integrated smart ticketing so people can easily plan and pay for journeys across transport modes.

The Transport Decarbonisation recognises the important role that sub-national transport bodies like Transport for the South East can play in supporting the government’s decarbonisation objectives by joining up local plans across a wider geography, capitalising on economies of scale and ensuring coherence across local authority borders.

Cllr Glazier added: “Government recognises that this plan is the start of a process that requires the support and engagement of a wide range of partners at the local, national and regional level. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with government the future role that sub-national transport bodies like Transport for the South East can play in delivering our shared goals for decarbonisation.”