Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: transport emissions

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This policy paper was withdrawn on

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-greenhouse-gases-and-other-emissions-from-transport. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Transport is a major source of greenhouse gases. Around a quarter of domestic carbon dioxide (CO₂) and other greenhouse gas emissions in the UK come from transport. Transport is also a source of emissions which make air quality worse.

Reducing greenhouse gases from transport will help our long term goal of reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050.


Ultra-low emission vehicles

Ultra-low emission vehicles, such as electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen powered cars and vans, help cut down greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution on our roads. To encourage more people to drive these vehicles, the government:

  • provides grants to those who purchase ultra-low emission vehicles
  • contributes to the funding of of innovative research and development through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV)
  • is setting out a framework for the development of a recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles
  • continues to give funding to the Plugged-in Places programme
  • continues to set ambitious performance standards to deliver emissions reductions from new vehicles – a new car sold today is on average 18% more fuel efficient than the car it replaces

Reducing emissions from shipping

The government is working in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop global technical, operational and market-based measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

The IMO has already successfully agreed some technical and operational measures to address greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

In the short to medium term, the government is focusing on work in the IMO to develop further technical and operational measures.

In the long term, the government’s goal is an IMO market-based measure to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from ships.


Sustainable biofuels (produced with low impact on the environment) can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. To encourage their production and use we amended the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (RTFO) order so that it’s fully compliant with European legislation. This means we only reward the production of biofuels that deliver greenhouse gas savings and don’t cause environmental damage.

Air quality

‘Air quality’ refers to the levels of substances in outdoor air that are harmful to health and the natural environment. Work on ultra-low emission vehicles, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the Green Bus Fund is helping to reduce air pollution from transport.

In 2011 the government provided £10 million of targeted funding to improve air quality in London, including a programme to retrofit buses with technology to reduce pollution.

Since August 2013 a further £7.5 million has been awarded under the new Clean Bus Technology Fund. This will pay for the upgrade of more than 500 buses in 25 local and transport authorities outside London to reduce the harmful NOx gases they produce.

In 2014 we invited bidders to apply for our Clean Vehicle Technology Fund. The funding will be used to upgrade vehicles with technology to reduce emissions in areas of poor air quality.


The Climate Change Act (2008) established a framework and targets to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

The government drew up the Carbon plan in 2011, to outline the UK’s progress with meeting Climate Change Act targets.

The plan feature transport actions including:

  • the provision of over £400 million funding for the development, supply and use of ultra-low emission vehicles until 2015 – through consumer incentives, support for recharging infrastructure, research, development and demonstration
  • the provision of £600 million between 2011 and 2015 to 96 local transport projects across England to promote growth and cut carbon emissions through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund
  • the electrification of the North Transpennine route from Manchester to York via Leeds, which will result in significant carbon savings as well as increased reliability and shorter journey times
  • the fourth round of the Green Bus fund providing a further £13 million for the purchase of low carbon emission buses, bringing the total support for this initiative to £88 million since its launch
  • putting a total of £8 million into low emission heavy good vehicles and their supporting infrastructure

In September 2013, OLEV published Driving the future today: a strategy for ultra low emission vehicles in the UK. This includes a plan to provide publish over £500 million of capital investment between 2015 and 2020 to continue establishing the UK’s ULEV market.

To provide the best evidence base for our policy we used analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling and research.

Bills and legislation

Biofuel legislation

Biofuel regulation in the UK is principally covered by the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) Order which came into force in 2007. The order has been amended to fulfil the transport elements of the EC’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in the UK.

UK legislation

Specific UK legislation about biofuels includes:

Related UK legislation about includes:

EU legislation

Relevant EU legislation about biofuels includes:

Appendix 1: supporting the use of biofuels

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Biofuels are fossil fuel substitutes. They can be made from a range of agricultural crops, usually oily crops for biodiesel and crops rich in sugars or starch for bioethanol.

By-products and wastes like used cooking oil, tallow and municipal solid waste can also be used to produce biofuels. Blended into fossil fuels in small proportions, bioethanol and biodiesel can be safely used in today’s road vehicles.

Appendix 2: ultra-low emission vehicles

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The government has set an ambitious vision for almost every car and van to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050.

We are positioning the UK at the global forefront of ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) development, manufacture and use. Greater use of ULEVs will contribute to economic growth and will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution on our roads.

Through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) we are providing over £400 million to advance ULEV technology and encourage people to buy and drive ULEVs. In addition, Action for roads, features plans to provide capital investment of over £500 million up to 2020 to support the shift to ULEVs.


To encourage more people to drive ULEVs we have set up:

Investment in new technologies

We work closely with industry and other government departments to develop and strengthen the capability of ULEV manufacturing and its associated supply chain in the UK.

We actively participate in the joint government and industry UKH₂Mobility project. We have evaluated the potential for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in the UK and developed a roadmap for commercial deployment from 2015.

We fund projects targeted at low and ultra-low vehicle technologies, designed to promote research, design, development and demonstration in the UK:

Recharging infrastructure

We have set out a strategy for the development of recharging infrastructure to support electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles:

To inform future development of the UK’s recharging network, we are also funding the Plugged-in Places programme.

Support for fleets

We provide funding and support to fleets considering purchasing low emission vehicles. We have set up and supported:

Interaction with the energy system

We work with the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) to understand the interaction of plug-in vehicles with the energy system. In particular, we take into account the:

  • additional demands the electrification of transport might place on the electricity system
  • contribution that plug-in vehicles might make in terms of system balancing and the transition to smart grids, and energy security

New vehicle carbon dioxide emissions standards

EU regulations set out targets for emission reductions for new cars and vans. In the next few years we expect the EC to make proposals for post-2020 new car and new van emission standards. We also expect them to issue a strategy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from lorries, buses and coaches.

Further information about ULEVs

You find out more about the work being done to support ULEVs by reading about:

Appendix 3: developing an evidence based low-carbon transport policy

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

To ensure that transport systems are effective, transport decisions and policies made by government are informed by economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling, and research.

To provide the best evidence base for planning transport policies and schemes, mathematical models are used to analyse complex transport patterns.

Research reports

A range of cleaner vehicles and fuels research has been published on the Department for Transport’s transport research database.


We publish various statistics about transport emissions including:

Guidance on transport modelling and appraisal

Guidance on modelling and forecasting for major transport schemes requiring government funding is available through WebTAG

Further information on the role of economic analysts

The Civil Service website features further information about the role of economic analysts in DfT.