Category Archives: Low carbon future

The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is a good start, but more is needed to make transport genuinely green

Last week, the government published its strategy for a greener transport system, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which has been welcomed for new policies on electric vehicles and a significant positive shift in tone around cycling, walking and public transport. While it also recognises the many benefits that come from making transport greener – healthier lifestyles, savings for consumers and hundreds of thousands of new jobs – what will this plan actually change?

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What it’s like driving a green black cab in London

For London Climate Action Week (#LCAW2021), we spoke to a driver of one of the most iconic forms of transport in London, the black cab. Green Alliance’s senior political adviser, Joe Tetlow, interviewed cabbie Sardar Manyana about his experience of driving one of the newer ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs). 

How long have you driven a black cab? Have you always driven a ULEV? 
I’ve been a taxi driver for over four years. Previously, I drove a conventional TX4 black cab, but for the past 18 months I’ve been driving a hybrid ULEV, made by the London Electric Vehicle Company, which I rent.

What incentives are there to switch to a hybrid black cab? 
Non-ULEV black cabs are still allowed to operate and avoid London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) charge. However, the advantages of having a ULEV cab are that it’s quieter and has a sunroof with six seats, and some customers love the fact it is a ULEV too. The government offers a grant worth £7,500 to own one. However, they are very expensive, costing between £55,600 and £58,000 plus insurance, which is why I rent.

What about the cost of running your cab and the ease of charging it?
The cost of charging is between £5.50 to £7.00 per charge, depending on the chargers used. If it’s done at home it’s cheaper, but I live in an apartment, so don’t have access to charging at home.

Even though ULEV manufacturers claim you save money, you don’t, mainly because finding a working charging point is so hard and the interruption to your working time of charging. Even a fast charger, at 50KW, takes between 45 minutes and an hour to charge. On full charge, vehicles run for about 50 to 55 miles which isn’t very practical as the average cabbie covers between 70-80 miles in a day and many live outside London. The battery power needs to be improved.

With current technology, this vehicle is not yet very cost effective to run. Some charging points are out of action for months at a time, and there are constant problems with contacting customer service to get them working. The chargers that do work are often illegally occupied by parked private vehicles, or are being used by private hire vehicles when the chargers are meant to be exclusively for taxis.

Overall, there are far too few rapid electric charging points in important central areas like Kensington, Westminster, Fulham, and there are no chargers that I know of in Mayfair. Some chargers are in car parks, but then you have to pay to park while you charge.

What can the government do to help? 
If the government seriously wants to cut congestion and pollution, they must be more serious about funding road users to switch to electric or other cleaner methods of travel. And they need to look at how the whole system works and increase clean energy access to support it, including many more rapid chargers.

I also believe they should consider restricting the use of private cars on London’s roads, and prioritise public transport, including black cabs, pedestrians and cyclists to encourage the public to use their cars less. We also provide a service to a lot of vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, so it is vital that we have access to all roads, which we currently don’t have in some areas of London. London’s ultra low emission black taxis should be seen as part of a clean public transport system and be given 100 per cent finance at no interest to buy electric vehicles, and a scrappage scheme for older vehicles could help speed it up.

Better planning of road space would also improve the flow of traffic and sharing with bikes, as would more carefully timed traffic lights. Road closures for low traffic neighbourhoods should be planned along with other measures to cut traffic, otherwise they simply squeeze more traffic onto other roads, increasing pollution and congestion there, which still negatively affects people’s health.

We black taxi drivers work very hard to get our badge and know the city’s roads inside out, so we should be consulted and included in plans for greener city transport, as we’re an important part of that future.

Switching to low carbon heating requires urgent action and leadership

This post is by Dr Richard Lowes, from the University of Exeter’s Energy Policy Group.

Even if the UK meets its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and other countries follow similar paths, the risk of pushing the world beyond 1.5°C of warming is still significant.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C is genuinely upsetting (including, but not limited to, expected irreversible damage to key ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves, and unmanageable coastal zone damage). I won’t comment on what going beyond 2°C looks like.

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UK energy policy is still weighed down by the nuclear dream

This post is by Jonathon Porritt, founder director of Forum for the Future.

In March 2012, four former directors of Friends of the Earth (myself, Tom Burke, Charles Secrett and Tony Juniper) wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron to warn him that the pro-nuclear bias of his advisers across government posed a significant risk to the government’s ability to fashion a coherent energy policy.

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Including flights abroad in the UK’s climate target is a huge step forward

This post is by Greg Archer and Matt Finch of Transport & Environment.

If holiday makers ignore the cost of flights they quickly max-out their credit cards and create a cash crisis. If countries omit their international aviation (and shipping) emissions from their national carbon budgets they run the risk of overshooting their climate targets and contribute to frying the planet. So the UK’s decision to include our international flights and shipping emissions in its sixth carbon budget is not just good accountancy, it is a huge step forward towards limiting these pernicious, invisible and, to date, largely unmanaged emissions.

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How to get from a cottage industry to a million heat pumps a year

This post is by Jan Rosenow, director of European programmes at the Regulatory Assistance Project, Pedro Guertler, programme leader at E3G, and Richard Lowes, research fellow at Exeter University.

The UK has made incredible strides in decarbonising its power system beyond what many thought was possible. Carbon emissions were at a record low over the recent Easter weekend. While heat pumps have been seen as a strategically important sustainable heat technology for years, the rapid progress in the power sector offers an urgent opportunity to decarbonise heating whilst supporting the integration of renewables.

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Is the promise of waste based aviation fuel sending us down a blind alley?

This post is by Cait Hewitt, deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation.

Scientists in America have found a way to massively reduce emissions from flying by using a new fuel made from waste, a BBC news headlines announced on 15 March. It sounded like the kind of scientific breakthrough that almost everyone would want to see: tackling waste and reducing emissions while allowing people to carry on flying. In fact, the story went on to report, the new fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 165 per cent suggesting that one way to lower emissions would be to fly more.

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A tale of two developments: why new planning reforms threaten to entrench unsustainable lifestyles

This post is by Steve Chambers, sustainable transport campaigner at Transport for New Homes.

In 2018, Transport for New Homes produced an initial report that revealed the deep flaws in the planning system which leave new housing developments with inadequate walking, cycling and public transport connections to surrounding areas. With limited facilities locally, residents are, for the most part, forced into car dependency.

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We need a UK law to stop companies profiting from destruction and abuse

This post is by Tom Wills, project manager – corporate accountability and trade at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Last month, the European Union took a major step towards passing a new law to stop businesses from abusing human rights and destroying the environment around the world. The EU’s proposed ‘corporate due diligence’ law would help to tackle the widespread abuse of workers and the environment in the supply chains of European companies. This progress in Europe accentuates the failure of the UK government to take similar action.

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