David Cameron announces green transport plans.
David Cameron visited a Surrey airfield to test-drive low-emission vehicles this afternoon as he announced a "radical agenda for greener cars" and said Conservative councils would make it easier for people to walk or cycle on short journeys.
The Conservative leader wants to cut the carbon emitted by the average car from 170g a kilometre now to 100g for new cars by 2022 and for all cars by 2030.
"As I saw for myself in the Arctic, the problem is truly global in scale," Mr Cameron said today. "But the solutions are often local. In Oslo, I saw one part of the solution. In fact I not only saw it, I drove it - a Greenpeace car made from recycled plastic, with an electric engine."
Mr Cameron has already announced his intention to switch his government car from a Vauxhall Omega (276g) to a hybrid Lexus (186g). The much cheaper Toyota Prius (104g) also on offer was deemed too small for Mr Cameron's official entourage, though critics pointed out yesterday that the Prince of Wales drives one.
"He talks the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk," the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, said yesterday, accusing Mr Cameron of preferring "legroom over the environment".
"It still produces too much carbon, but it's a move in the right direction," the Conservative leader said today. "To help tackle climate change, we must be for greener cars, not anti-car. Today, many families want to become greener, and they're looking for more options to go green. We should help them."
The Tory leader said he would launch a new initiative to improve urban public transport later this week. He added that Conservative councils were "determined to make streets and public spaces safer and greener" and make it easier for people to walk and cycle. "We walk less than almost any other Western country bar Greece," he said. "And our cycling rate is 40% below the EU average."
Transport accounts for just over one-quarter of the UK's carbon emissions, a figure that is forecast to rise by one-third over the next generation unless cars become less polluting. Hybrid cars reduce carbon emissions by switching from petrol to electric power when it is more efficient. Only a few small cars currently emit less than 100g a kilometre, but Tory strategists said technological innovation made the party's goal "challenging but efficient".
Mr Cameron said a Conservative government would offer "significant incentives" to buyers of low-emission cars and manufacturers researching hybrids, biofuels and new generation diesel. "I want Britain to be at the forefront of international efforts to build a new generation of motor vehicles that are much less environmentally damaging," he said.
Hybrid cars are already exempt from the London congestion charge. Discounted road tax and parking or exemptions from tolls and other road charges could be used to persuade motorists to switch. But Mr Cameron did not say whether he would increase excise duty for polluting vehicles and added that a road-building programme was still necessary because "some extra road capacity" was needed.
A spokesman for Greenpeace welcomed Mr Cameron's announcement. "It's quite clear that he's seizing the agenda from the government," said Simon Reddy. "It's excellent that he's speaking out."
However, Mr Reddy said Greenpeace wanted to see mandatory targets for manufacturers rather than merely incentives to produce greener cars. The Conservatives should also tax airline fuel and passengers to reduce emissions from aviation, he said. Mr Cameron has refused to say whether he supports a "green" tax on aviation.
Last week, the Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who promised to give up his 20-year-old Jaguar during the leadership campaign, said he had put it up for sale and would be travelling by Underground to some of his local election appointments.
More on the tories and climate change here.