Phasing out the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and vans should be accelerated to 2032, the government’s influential climate change watchdog has urged.

In its latest annual progress report on the UK’s efforts to cut emissions, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommends the introduction of a set of new targets to ratchet up zero-carbon vehicles’ share of the motor market.

The CCC says that car manufacturers should be subject to a mandate to sell a proportion of zero-emission vehicles, which should rise over time.

This Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, which would be similar to schemes already introduced in California and China, would culminate in a target of 100 per cent by 2032 “at the latest”. The CCC previously supported a target date of 2035, which is the timeline being consulted on in a recently published paper from the Department for Transport.

In addition, UK hydrogen production must increase by 2050 to a size comparable to the UK’s current fleet of gas-fired power stations, partly to help meet demand for fuelling HGVs.

To match the demand for hydrogen, it is very likely that up to 175 MtCO₂ of carbon capture and storage capacity will be needed by the middle of the century, says the CCC.

CfD auctions

The report also recommends increasing the frequency of Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions to an annual basis in order to cut the emissions intensity of the grid to 50 gCO₂/kWh by 2030 by spurring the deployment of renewable power.

The CCC also recommends that biomass and anaerobic digestion plants should be switched into Pot 1 of the CfD auction process, which is designed to support established technologies such as onshore wind and solar.

The report says removing these types of renewable power from the Pot 2, would free up support for less established technologies, such as floating wind, which have “greater strategic value” in meeting the 2050 net-zero target.

However, it says that only Advanced Conversion Technologies such as biomass plants with attached Combined Heat and Power will be eligible for CfDs, to put them on a level playing field with the existing rules for waste incinerators.

It also says that anaerobic digestion plants, which are producing biomethane for injection into the gas grid, will be prioritised for CfDs in line with the department for business, energy and industrial strategy’s (BEIS) proposals in its recently published Future Support for Low Carbon Heat paper.

The CCC says that the BEIS proposals to replace the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme with a new Green Gas Levy is “far too limited” but notes that the government has adopted its recommendations to restore CfD auctions for onshore wind and solar.

The paper also says that the gradually easing lockdown across most advanced economies, which has led to a record fall in global emissions, is likely to have only a “negligible” impact on global warming.

At a press conference, held to mark the report’s launch, the CCC’s chair Lord Deben said that the organisation had been keen to set a 2030 target for phasing out sales of new ICE cars and vans but that its “detailed work” had shown that the mechanisms do not exist to achieve this earlier date.

A spokeswoman for SSE told Utility Week that the supplier wanted to see an even earlier phase out of ICE vehicles than the CCC.

“We’ve laid out our Greenprint for a clean, green and more resilient economic recovery from coronavirus and support the CCC’s recommendation to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport.

“We believe delivering the most extensive and efficient EV charging network in the world, coupled with ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, the UK can stimulate a cleaner, greener recovery to support its net zero by 2050 target.”

Reaction

Former CCC chair Lord Turner said: “The committee is absolutely right to stress the huge opportunity for policies which both drive economic recovery and accelerate progress towards a zero-carbon economy.

“In world of rock bottom interest rates, now is the time to invest in renewable energy and other key forms of green infrastructure; faced with huge employment challenges, policy must focus on creating green jobs and government support for firms should be contingent on strengthened commitments to emission reductions and avoid supporting old technologies and potentially stranded assets.

“Sectors such as renewable energy, tree-planting and home energy retrofits offer major opportunities for near-term job creation and would also shift the UK economy onto a net zero trajectory. This is a clear win-win opportunity which must be seized.”

Audrey Gallacher, Energy UK’s interim chief executive, said: “The need to kickstart our recovery, along with our net zero ambitions, means we have an unprecedented opportunity to set out our future path to tackle both challenges. As the CCC notes, transforming an entire economy will require full commitment and action from right across every government department and the devolved governments. The energy sector already invests £14 billion a year and is ready to work closely with Government to help power our economic recovery and meet our net zero target.”

David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association said: “We welcome the Committee on Climate Change’s report. The networks are ready to invest now to create the net zero future we all need. We’ve already set out our plans for the world’s first zero-carbon gas network and we’re preparing for a mass electric vehicle roll-out in support of an earlier ban on petrol and diesel vehicles. The networks are ready to work with the government and Ofgem to fast-track these plans and play our part in the UK’s green recovery.”

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