Potholes in the road but Zemo will keep driving ahead


By Claire Haigh, executive director, Zemo Partnership

When I started the new job as Zemo’s executive director just over three months ago, I was well aware that there’s much to do and still plenty of challenges in the transition to zero emissions transport. I certainly haven’t been disabused of that notion!

There’s been a great deal going on at Zemo, even if there’s something of a pre-election hiatus in wider policy terms.

We were delighted to introduce the new Council for Net Zero Transport at the start of February, with Lord Deben – formerly of the Climate Change Committee – in the Chair. In a couple of months’ time, we’ll be announcing the membership of the Council and communicating more about what it will do to help steer the decarbonisation transition.

My focus has turned to the role of Zemo’s membership (around 230 key stakeholder organisations) in driving the transition. While the new Council will help set the course, it will be the vital task of Zemo’s membership, convened through our sectoral working groups, to determine the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the transition. Through those working groups, our members will inform a roadmap to UK road transport decarbonisation that we aim to publish in the autumn.

As in previous years, each of Zemo’s working groups will also focus on a number of key projects, alongside providing input to the roadmapping process. Indeed, the projects – this year’s work programme – will help inform the roadmap in several important areas.

Commercial vehicles will be a key focus this year, with our work to support the development of a strategy for the Welsh Government, a centrepiece in this sector.

Zemo has an excellent track record on buses where the UK leads other nations on many parameters. However, we need to make more progress on the coach sector and also focus on how to maximise the use of charging assets for bus & coach fleets.

With any technology transition like this one, it’s critical that users are taken on the journey. There are signs of uncertainty in some electric vehicle markets, with take-up slowing from earlier, rapid rates. There are, I think, various causes of this, but a lack of information – in some cases the circulation of misinformation – certainly isn’t helping. So, parts of our work programme in the passenger car area will focus on consumer education and engagement. We’re well aware, too, that uncertainty and misinformation isn’t confined to consumer markets and that there’s also work to be done in providing better information to commercial vehicle users, operators and involved stakeholders.

In the fuels area, we’ll continue to focus on encouraging uptake of renewable high-blend fuels, where electrification is not yet an option, as well as further developing Zemo’s highly successful Renewable Fuels Assurance Scheme to make sure operators have the information they need to make good decisions.

Developing the UK’s recharging infrastructure is clearly one of the keys to unlocking a successful transition. We plan to build on the work of the Zemo-convened Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce to focus on areas where progress most needs to be made. As one component of this, we’ll be looking at ways we can support local authorities in developing public charging.

Zemo’s work programme this year will also include cross-cutting themes. We’ll continue to focus on embedding life-cycle analysis as a policy tool and – as a complement to our primary focus on supply-side measures – we aim to look at decarbonisation opportunities arising from transport demand.

So, there’s plenty to do and much to focus on in the coming months. If your organisation is not already a member of Zemo, do sign up and join us in helping to map the road ahead!