The Uxbridge by-election result last month, which saw the election of a conservative candidate, was a “shot across the bows” that showed a change of approach on net zero was now required, according to the RHA.
The election of Tory Steve Tuckwell was widely seen as a result of a public backlash to Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to extend the ULEZ to almost all of the area within the Greater London boundary.
The RHA said subsequent cross-party calls for “reflection”, “flexibility” and “pragmatism and proportionality” on environmental goals were strongly welcomed and it was important for the public to be brought along on the journey to reduce emissions.
Chris Ashley, policy lead on environment and vehicles at the RHA, said there were a range of lessons politicians could learn from as a result of the by-election: “The state cannot do this alone,” he explained.
“Collaboration is essential if environmental goals are to be realised. Achieving net zero is complex but it can be done well and enjoy the support of all.”
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Ashley said that the idea of sustainability should recognise that social, environmental and economic wellbeing were all vital: “Focussing on just one to justify a policy will backfire if the other two are ignored.”
He added: “Both the public and industry can do the heavy lifting to invest and phase-in clean technologies, but we need a supportive financial and regulatory framework to do this. Imposing punitive charges to incentivise change is folly.
“It hurts those least able to adapt the most, with low-margin industries like logistics passing those costs on. Instead, we need greater government investment and tax-breaks.”
Ashley also said that politicians needed to be honest about costs and how zero-emission vehicles actually perform, as well as the payback period businesses need to see a return on their investment.
The RHA has formed a ‘Net Zero Forum’, made up of its members, which seeks to address how emissions are reduced from transport viably and its first meeting takes place later this month.
Ashley’s comments came after the High Court ruled that the expansion of the ULEZ was lawful and can go ahead as planned on 29 August.
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