In 2011, the European Commission proposed a commitment to massively transform Europe’s transport networks and needs, in a bid to cut overall carbon emissions by around 60 per cent.
The plan had initially been rejected by the UK, but this month’s international climate conference in Paris has seen 13 international members - including the UK - commit to accelerating the global adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
“The UK already has the largest market for ultra-low emission vehicles in the EU, and the fourth largest in the world and today’s pledge reaffirms our commitment to ensuring almost every car and van is a zero emission vehicle by 2050,” UK transport minister Andrew Jones said.
Members of the new International Zero Emissions Vehicle Alliance include The Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom in Europe; Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in the United States; and Québec in Canada.
Jens Frølich Holthe, Political Advisor to Norway’s Minister for Environment, described the multi-region commitment as a positive step towards climate change control.
“We see working together with other proactive governments as a key to a global transition to an electric fleet. The problem of climate change is clearly global, and we see electric vehicles as one of the important global climate solutions.”
A report published by the the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) estimated that a relatively scant one million plug-in electric vehicles are now on the world’s roads.
The report adds, however, that with that milestone achieved in about six years, the adoption of pure-electric vehicles has occurred much faster than for conventional hybrid cars, which took several years longer to reach the same point.
Still, with the overall global vehicle count closing in on two billion, the International Zero Emissions Vehicle Alliance will have its work cut out for it if a 2050 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles in urban centres is to be achieved.
Much of that plan centres on changing the way people move around, however, with a commitment to promoting public transport options for those that don’t strictly need to use a vehicle - such as commercial vehicles and commuters whose needs can’t be met by the myriad other options available.
It is hoped, however, that by 2050, many of those vehicle types in use will already be largely zero-emission.
The plan also calls for removing any government barriers to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including policies that increase incentives to lease or purchase.
The Australian federal government has committed to doubling its spend on research into a cleaner future, but it is not a member of the ZEV Alliance.
It has also yet to reveal any plans to reverse the abolishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, as initiated by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s predecessor, Tony Abbott.
At the state level, however, South Australia has said it will work towards making Adelaide a carbon neutral by 2050, which would make it the first city in the world to achieve such a goal.
“We are committed to making the City of Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city, and I am delighted to have finalised this agreement formally with the Lord Mayor,” South Australian premier Jay Weatherill said in November, less than two weeks after hosting the southern hemisphere’s first driverless vehicle tests.