Thank you Philip [Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust] for that introduction.
It’s a great pleasure to be here today (28 November 2013) for what is now the 8th Fleet Hero Awards - a very well established highlight of the fleet calendar.
Among my responsibilities at the DfT is low emission vehicles so I am very much looking forward to working with the fleet industry in the months and years ahead.
I have a keen interest in green motoring and I certainly appreciate the huge progress that the industry has made recently in reducing carbon emissions.
Although total UK CO₂ emissions increased last year, the only major sector of the economy to reduce its CO₂ footprint was transport.
That’s on top of an almost 10% reduction in emissions from domestic transport in the last 8 years.
The motor industry and fleet sector are absolutely essential to that success.
Sometimes when times are tight you hear some people say we simply can’t afford to worry about the environment, we just need to focus on the bottom line.
Day in, day out, you prove that we can do both.
There are all kinds of fleets represented this evening – from the large to the small, from public sector to private sector, from all across the country.
All of you are showing that reducing carbon emissions can save money, through techniques like smarter driver training and technologies like speed limiters and telematics.
It’s our job in government to deliver a transport system that creates the conditions for growth and helps cut carbon emissions at the same time.
For far too long we’ve underinvested in Britain’s transport infrastructure. This hasn’t just held back economic growth but it actually increases carbon emissions from old trains and millions of drivers stuck in jams.
So that’s why we have announced the most ambitious transport package for generations including over £70 billion of capital investment across the next Parliament.
We are spending £24 billion on our strategic road network.
We are tripling the national roads budget, and adding 400 extra lane miles of motorway and we are spending £6 billion in this Parliament and £12 billion in the next to maintain local roads.
We have an unwavering, long term commitment to decarbonising road transport.
Not just to tackle climate change.
But also to make the UK a global leader in green vehicle technologies and engineering.
We will continue to promote the uptake of ultra-low emission cars through a combination of grants and tax incentives.
For example, just over 6000 claims have already been made through the plug-in car and van grant and I’m sure tonight’s Fleet Hero Awards will encourage many more.
We are also supporting the market for green vehicles with £500 million to develop the ultra low emissions market between 2015 and 2020.
Britain is already one of the largest car exporters in Europe and we want that the next generation of low emission vehicles to be built here.
So early next year we will be also launching a comprehensive consumer information campaign - joint funded by OLEV and 5 vehicle manufacturers - to dispel some myths about green motoring, and to help inform potential buyers.
I want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to secure inward investment in the UK, increase green vehicle uptake, cut carbon and create new skilled manufacturing jobs.
That’s why earlier this month we announced a call for evidence to support the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.
This will give the industry, local authorities, fleet managers and other interested parties an opportunity to shape the package.
As leaders in this area, it is really important to me that you are involved in this work. The consultation is open until 10th January 2014 so please do try and find the time to contribute.
Many of you in this room are leading the way with electric vehicles.
It is fantastic that this year’s event sees the introduction of the Plugged-in Fleets Award, which recognises the organisation that has adopted electric vehicles most successfully into its fleet.
This is not just about cutting carbon, or cutting costs, it’s also about choosing the right vehicle for your business.
And certainly it’s important that we in government learn from what you are doing.
We’ve launched a LinkedIn OLEV Fleets Forum that will give the industry an opportunity to share views and experiences with me and my colleagues at the department and carry on the conversation.
Well, it’s almost time to get going with this year’s awards.
But first I’d like to congratulate the Energy Saving Trust and sponsors for putting on this evening’s event, and thank Philip and his team for the vital work they do.
I’d also like to congratulate all of you who have made the shortlist. I know the judges have been very impressed by the quality of applications this year.
Thank you for listening. I wish all the nominees good luck.