Skidmore tells T+E Forum to realise the net-zero opportunity

Mission Zero review author and former Energy Minister Chris Skidmore has told the Transport + Energy Forum today that net-zero is “here to stay” and the sector needs to win the decarbonisation argument with the public.

In a passionate speech, Skidmore hailed the current progress of net-zero both in the UK and globally, before highlighting the importance of continued acceleration in the decarbonisation of transport and energy to hit 2030 and 2050 targets.

He said that we “are living in revolutionary times” with “the escalation of electric transport at an exponential rate”, illustrated through the 42% rise in EV chargers in 2023 alone.

While praising local authorities and private companies for their work, he said that after his Mission Zero report “time and time again, Westminster was behind the curve” while “people in the real world were getting on with the job”.

Calling net zero “the new economic reality”, he also highlighted the work of mayors like West Midlands’ Andy Street, who were championing it at a local level.

On 2030, he said it was “important we unlock the delays in the system” and that the ZEV mandate was “one of the most important ways of achieving our targets by 2050”.

He said government had been involved “in a bit of greenwashing” over the recent changes to the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035 instead of 2030.

Highlighting the response of vehicle manufacturers, he said “what struck me” was the statements from firms such as Volvo and VW, who re-emphasised their commitment to a 2030 phase-out.

Skidmore then issued a warning that we are in a “net-zero race”, where other countries such as the US and Germany had committed to long-term plans.

He said a “consensus” was needed and also to realise that delivery of new powers to local areas and regions on decarbonisation was crucial and “we don’t see it as a central government issue”.

He continued: “Net zero provides the opportunity for a better future, and a brighter better world. It must be consumer-focused and make things easier for people. We need to make sure that there is a holistic, systems-based approach, which is really important for net-zero.”

Hinting at the current debate about electric vehicles and the push-back from some tabloid news stories, he said people needed to see they were not just users of transport or energy but of “their own net zero narratives” and that is where success would occur.

Using the Netflix and streaming analogy, he said “no-one bemoaned the loss of their DVD collections”, and it was important to “make that argument on the decarbonisation of transport”.

He concluded: “We must ensure that the net zero future we create is one people want.”

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