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New government must use our industry’s green growth as an advantage

11 July 2024 #TNB News

Talking the talk for decarbonisation has become more common in recent years but the UK automotive industry has been walking the walk for more than two decades, as SMMT’s 25th annual Sustainability Report launched this week showed with the direct CO2 coming from Britain’s vehicle factories having halved over the past 25 years. The major milestone was achieved in 2023 when the amount of CO2, energy and water directly needed for building a vehicle were all reduced by around a fifth on average.

It reflects a big commitment to sustainability from the whole auto industry but particularly the commercial vehicle sector, given eight of the UK’s vehicle factories produce trucks, vans and buses – and last year delivered decarbonisation while at a time turning out the largest volumes of commercial vehicles in any year since 2010.

It’s real green growth that shows Britain is an attractive place for global investment – be it electric vans and buses or hydrogen trucks or pick-ups – but with so many countries trying their utmost to get new, green, global investment into their own industries, it can’t be taken for granted that more will inevitably come the UK’s way.

With the landslide victory for Labour last week, the new government needs to use our industry’s strongpoints of growth and sustainability to the whole UK’s economic advantage. The Sustainability Report highlights how that can be done, through collaboration with the automotive sector and an industrial strategy that brings in other sectors to put the UK in the best possible position to gain new investment. That includes finished vehicle manufacturing as well as supply chains and the adjacent sectors that we depend on, such as energy and infrastructure.

More sustainable, affordable energy is desperately needed to bring down production costs and CO2, while free and fair trade agreements that give our manufacturers easy access to critical raw materials for decarbonisation are also important. Even a mass UK market for zero emission commercial vehicles must be part of the strategy for automotive, because manufacturers tend to base their factories close their markets. At the same time, a diverse and skilled workforce that can work with the latest technology to keep our transition moving in the right direction.

We’re excited to work with the government and its new ministerial appointments, such as Lilian Greenwood MP as Minister for the Future of Roads including zero emission vehicles, and Simon Lightwood MP as Minister for Local Transport including buses and taxis – and SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes this week joined an online meeting held by Secretary of State Jonathan Reynolds MP with automotive executives to hear his vision for growth.

That vision must have commercial vehicles at its beating heart because, after a frantic pre-election period and with our sector’s ambitious green goals in place, there is no time for the new government to waste. The Sustainability Report will help provide the answers needed to hit the ground running.

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