Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Department for Transport

STRATEGIC ISSUES IN WHICH THE COMMITTEE IS PARTICULARLY INTERESTED INCLUDE:

A.  what progress the DfT is making against key carbon reduction targets or forecasts included in the Ten Year Plan (2000), the Climate Change Strategy (2000), the 2004 Transport White Paper, the 2004 PSA, Powering Future Vehicles (2004), and other documents;

  1.  DEFRA, DfT and DTI share responsibility for delivering the cross-sectoral PSA targets on climate change. This commits the UK to working towards both the Kyoto target and the significantly harder domestic target.

    —  Kyoto target: reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% by 2008-12 over 1990 levels.

    —  Domestic target: reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010 over 1990 levels.

  2.  As things stand, the UK is on track to meet its greenhouse gas Kyoto commitment by a clear margin. The self-imposed domestic target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 is challenging, but the Government remains committed to it. Through the Climate Change Programme Review (CCPR), which will be published shortly, the Government has been investigating ways of meeting that target.

B.  whether the DfT's carbon reduction target is underpinned by a coherent strategy stretching across the department's entire range of activities;

  The DfT aims to strike the right balance between delivering carbon savings and respecting people's need to travel. We are working across the Department's entire range of activities to:

    (1)  reduce the fossil carbon content of transport fuel

    For example, under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), announced in November 2005, 5% of transport fuel sold in the UK will have to come from renewable sources by 2010. This will deliver a net carbon saving of one million tonnes, equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.

    (2)  increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles

    For example, by linking both the company car tax system and Vehicle Excise Duty on carbon emissions, the Government encourages drivers to choose fuel-efficient cars.

    (3)  encourage a move towards more environmentally friendly forms of transport

    For example, the Government supports a range of measures, called "Smarter Choices" aimed at helping people make sustainable travel choices. These measures include workplace, school and residential travel planning, and better public transport information.

    (4)  work towards the inclusion of transport in emissions trading schemes

    For example, the UK has made major progress on including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. On 22 February 2006 the Secretaries of State for Transport, Trade and Industry and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs sent a joint letter to the Vice Presidents Barrot and Verheugen and Commissioner Dimas of the European Commission, asking them to consider the inclusion of emissions from surface transport in the scheme and offering the Government's active contribution to that work.

C.  whether the current balance of expenditure between the DfT's objectives (as revealed in its 2005 departmental report, Annex A) adequately reflects the environmental challenges it faces (see note 3);

  The DfT's approach is to integrate environmental thinking across the Department's entire range of activities. This is reflected in the public expenditure tables published in Annex A of the 2005 departmental report.

  The spending listed under the heading of PSA Objective 3 does not include the money spent by the Department on activities such as encouraging public transport, which help limit the impact of transport on the environment as well as having social and economic benefits.

  The tables show the money spent by DfT, not the results delivered. Fiscal incentives and voluntary agreements with manufacturers are amongst our most effective tools for cutting carbon emissions from transport.

D.  what realistically the DfT could achieve by 2010 and 2020 in terms of reducing transport-related carbon emissions, and the role that demand management should play in doing so  and

E.  what specific steps the department should now take to reduce road transport carbon emissions and congestion over the next decade.

  In a growing economy the demand for transport fuel grows faster than the demand for other kinds of fuel, and so transport's share of total emissions is likely to increase. This is what is happening in the UK.

  The Government's approach is to look for the most cost-effective and practical savings across the whole of the economy. DfT is an active participant in this process and is fully engaged with the Climate Change Programme Review.

  Looking beyond 2010, we are working with the Energy Review to reduce emissions from vehicles and fuels, encourage more environmentally friendly forms of transport, and support emissions trading. We are working with the Stern Review to consider how to design policies to bring forward new clean fuels and technologies in transport, and how to adapt the transport infrastructure to deal with the effects of climate change.

  In the Future of Transport white paper, the DfT recognised the importance of managing the growing demand for transport. We noted that while additional infrastructure will be necessary, simply providing ever more capacity is not the answer in the long term, because the damage to our environment, landscape, towns and cities and our quality of life would be unacceptable.

  Therefore we are developing an approach where road pricing could be progressively introduced in the UK by asking local authorities to come forward with road pricing schemes which tackle congestion, to be funded from the Transport Innovation Fund. Persuading a small percentage of drivers to travel at a different time or place could significantly reduce urban congestion.

F.  whether the targets set out in the Powering Future Vehicles Strategy were adequate and what progress has been made against them since 2002;

  Annual progress reports on Powering Future Vehicles are available on the DfT Website and a review of the Strategy is currently underway.

  In the meantime, it is worth noting that the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership's colour-coded fuel efficiency labels for new cars are now on display in most UK showrooms. These are directly linked to the graduated Vehicle Excise Duty bands.

  The Government Car and Despatch Agency now has a fleet of over 20 hybrid vehicles and we will offset CO2 emissions from central Government air travel from April 2006.

G.  what organisations and funding sources are involved, whether there is adequate coordination between them, and whether the overall funding available and spent in support of the strategy is adequate in view of the environmental challenges DfT is facing.

  The organisations most directly involved with Powering Future Vehicles are the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), the Energy Saving Trust (EST), DfT, DTI and HMT.

  The LowCVP brings together Government, industry and other stakeholders to work towards low carbon vehicles and fuels. It receives around £0.5 million of baseline funding each year from DfT and DTI, and receives additional funding from both these Departments and from DEFRA where appropriate.

  DfT also funds the EST to deliver a range of grant and advice programmes. A number of these are currently suspended and under review because of concerns about their compatibility with European State Aid rules.

  DfT holds regular meetings with all the above organisations and the LowCVP co-ordinates work between Government and industry stakeholders.

IN ADDITION, THE COMMITTEE HAS DECLARED AN INTEREST IN ASSESSING WHAT HAS CHANGED WITH REGARD TO AVIATION EMISSIONS SINCE THE LAST EAC INQUIRY INTO THAT SUBJECT

  We have made considerable progress since the Committee's eleventh report of Session 2003-04.

  We believe that a well-designed emissions trading regime is the fairest and most efficient way to ensure that the aviation sector reduces its emissions and during our recent Presidency of the European Union we therefore made including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) a priority.

  As a result the Commission recommended emissions trading as the best way forward and, under our chairmanship, the December 2005 EU Environment Council urged the Commission to produce a legislative proposal by the end of 2006.

  The European Commission is now taking forward work to consider the details of including aviation in the EU-ETS. The UK remains closely involved and continues to work with stakeholders to seek opinion and to broaden support.

March 2006





 
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