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The Department for Transport’s efforts to decarbonise the entire UK transport system are charted here by Open Access Government

The Department for Transport invests in and plans transport infrastructure to keep the UK moving. Working with partners and agencies, the Department supports the transport network to help businesses and get goods and people around. (1)

The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP became Secretary of State for Transport on 25th October 2022 (2), preceded by The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, who held the role from 6th September 2022 to 25th October 2022. (3)

This article will look at the Department for Transport’s ambitions to decarbonise the entire UK transport system, looking at recent steps to achieve this, such as promoting hydrogen, greener rail travel and slashing emissions in the maritime industry.

Decarbonise the UK transport system

Decarbonising transport: a better, greener Britain sets out the UK Government’s actions needed and commitments to decarbonise the entire transport system. “By law the UK’s emissions must now be net zero by 2050,” the report urges. The report also states there will be better places to live and work in, by ending transport’s damage to climate change.

Also, changing how we travel will improve the well-being and health of the UK. “This is also a huge industrial opportunity, a once in a generation chance to increase economic growth and future prosperity – using electricity, green hydrogen, sustainable low carbon fuels and pedal power – to invest in new jobs across our country,” the Department for Transport say. (4)

Hydrogen potential in the UK

One cannot fault the scale of this ambition, but what has happened more recently in working towards this? In October 2022, we learned that Tees Valley would host a new £20 million competition concerning hydrogen use for a more efficient and cleaner transport sector. Hydrogen, which produces no carbon emissions when utilised as a fuel, has vast potential to be unlocked in the future. The then Transport Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, provided more detail:

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges this generation faces, and with transport contributing 24% to the UK’s CO2 levels, we are working hard to change things now and for the future.

“Tees Valley continues to be the beacon for hydrogen technologies and will be further supported by £20 million going to the best and the brightest ideas that will create a world-leading industry with more skilled jobs in the heart of the north of England.” (5)

The maritime industry

Boosting economic growth and slashing emissions is possible thanks to £60 million of UK Government funding for the UK maritime industry heralded in September 2022. The then Transport Secretary announced the funding as an element of the UK Government’s plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

“The UK has always been a proud seafaring nation and helping the maritime sector to be more environmentally- friendly will mean it continues to play a key role in the UK’s economy for generations to come.

“This World Maritime Day we’re announcing funding to harness the best innovations the UK has to offer – proving that tackling climate change can go hand-in-hand with business innovation, job creation and supercharging economic growth.” (6)

More recently, International zero-emission shipping routes came one step closer, following COP27. ‘Green shipping corridors’ are said to be specific maritime routes that are decarbonised from end to end. Passages for land-side vessels and infrastructure concern zero- emission fuel or energy, for example. Recharging or infrastructure at ports are needed and zero-emission capable vessels for cleaner shipping. The current Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, provided more detail.

“The challenges posed by climate change are clear and the need to decarbonise maritime has never been greater.

“That’s why we’ve committed to work alongside global partners to clean up the sector, improve air quality in and around our ports and coastal communities, and drive green investment into our economy.

“But we must not lose momentum. I’m delighted to say the UK has agreed to begin developing green shipping routes with some of our closest allies, as we work together to realise the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and limit global warming.” (7)

A greener railway in the future

Did you know self-charging trains could land in Britain one day, thanks to recent government funding? This will lead to a greener, cost-effective railway, thanks to the First of a Kind 2022 competition that concerns fresh ideas to decarbonise the network and transform rail travel. Transport Secretary Mark Harper commented on this, but it is also an excellent place to end our analysis of the move towards making the UK’s transport greener.

“Through millions of pounds worth of government funding, we are breathing life into ideas that will revolutionise our railways and make them greener than ever before.

“This is just the beginning and, as Transport Secretary, I am determined to support British innovation and create a cutting edge, green rail industry that delivers even more benefits for passengers and freight.” (8)










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