Good news. Vince Cable, George Osborne and Philip Hammond have been defeated, and Chris Huhne has prevailed. The UK will implement the Committee on Climate Change's recommendation and halve CO2 emissions by 2025 with a series of carbon budgets. It seems scarcely credible, but we now have the most ambitious targets of any developed country.
What does this mean for transport? I posted recently about the underwhelming public response to the less-than-tempting prospect of electric car ownership (only 534 people registered for the electric car purchase discount compared to the hoped-for 8000). Electric cars rather underpin Hammond's plans in which we all carry on driving as far and as fast as we do today. If electric car sales don't take off soon, transport will overshoot its emissions trajectory. It's difficult to see even more subsidies being pumped into Hammond's fantasy given the climate of austerity. In the real world, even with more subsidy, the prospect of electric car ownership with its range anxiety and frequent stops to charge the battery isn't going to be very appealing to motorists used to the freedom of petrol power, especially as pump prices are currently on the wane. Unfortunately, Hammond has painted himself into a corner with his 'war on the motorist' agenda, which is not compatible with disincentives to petrol car use. Maybe it's time for Cameron to get himself a new transport secretary? One with a broader mind, who understands that more car parking, higher speed limits and increasing car use are not compatible with reducing emissions. It's a little strange that the Government are so keen that we reduce the fiscal deficit and live within our means, but is so shy of pointing out that we need to live within our energy means as well, when it comes to transport. Promoting active travel is a good way to tighten our belts. Literally, because as the most obese nation in Europe, we could do with losing our national muffin-top. Metaphorically, because burning less oil will leave us financially better off while as a more active nation we will spend less in the NHS on treating the long list of obesity-related diseases.