At the risk of getting too excited about a government green initiative before all the details have emerged, it seems worthwhile to give the Low Carbon Transition Plan announced yesterday a cautious welcome.

For once a government green idea doesn’t hose down the car industry and the headline figure for all reductions in transport carbon at least looks realistic — all transport is going to be responsible for 20 per cent of the 34 per cent countrywide reduction by 2020.

Government sets emissions goals

So trucks, vans, buses and rail are going to have to do their share, too

According to the SMMT, the car-makers trade group, road transport emissions are going to have to come down 14 per cent, which should be a do-able figure over the next decade, given the amount of investment that’s ploughing into advanced powertrains.

There’s already been good progress, with the fleet average tailpipe emissions of new cars sold each year in Britain down from 190g/km in 1997 to 158g/km in 2008 — a 16 per cent cut. The current race is to get to the EU’s fleet average of 130g/km by 2015.

My calculator reckons that a 14 per cent reduction from 158g/km is 135g/km, so the government has got its eye clearly focused on that 2015 target in its latest pronouncement.

Having made sensible proposals today, I hope the government doesn’t go all anti-car again, as suggested in the ‘Carbon Budget Fact Sheet’ that accompanied today’s announcement.

It allocates carbon cuts to individual government departments and suggests the DfT’s share is equivalent to around 4m people choosing to cycle five miles to work.

A graphic illustration, maybe, but let’s hope it doesn’t confuse the message that green technology being developed by car-companies at great expense and paid for by every buyer of a new car — 1.8m to 2m Britons on average every year — is really the way that we’ll get the country’s road transport carbon footprint down.

The most unwelcome bit is that the percentage of biofuel in petrol and diesel is headed to 10 per cent by 2020, which is going to add some pence to each litre.

And at least one mystery remains. Yesterday’s Plan finally reveals a target for the much-reported electric car/plug-in hybrid incentive due in 2011 and worth up to £2500 per car.

Somewhat bizarrely this will be linked to a tailpipe output of 75g/km, not far off the latest Prius.

But surely an electric car has zero emissions of tailpipe carbon. As I write this the DfT is trying to get clarification...

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