The UK government has a cunning plan to help meet its carbon emissions targets: green number plates.
Today the Department for Transport published a consultation on the number plates (PDF) as a way to allow zero-emission vehicles to benefit from incentives such as cheaper parking.
In the foreword, transport minister Grant Shapps said: "Being able to differentiate vehicles based on their environmental impact will help inform road-users and normalise the idea of clean vehicles."
He said the scheme "provides a huge opportunity for road users of all types to engage with and show leadership on transport emissions. Green number plates have the potential to be a powerful motivator to encourage road users to shift to cleaner vehicles."
The consultation said several local authorities have already indicated the plates would enable clearer visual recognition of vehicles eligible for local incentives, such as access to bus lanes in Nottingham, ultra low or zero-emission zones and cheaper parking.
"This becomes a useful visual tool for local enforcement officials, as well as road users of all vehicle types. This visual identifier could then serve the wider purpose of conveying local policy and political priorities in tackling carbon and air quality challenges," it said.
The government's preferred option is for plates with a green dash on the left-hand side, so Automatic Number Plate Recognition scanners can read the numbers against the yellow background, as opposed to having a full green background.
That would also be "more easily implemented and so is likely to be able to be brought in sooner, capturing the emerging market. Government's initial moderate preference is for the design on the left-hand side of the plate to be a green flash rather than a green symbol, as it creates a more dominant identifier."
In August, a report by the Science and Technology Committee was highly critical of the lack of policies in place to deliver the net zero greenhouse emissions target by 2050. It claimed the UK was not even on course to meet its legally binding targets for 2023 to 2032.
The report also criticised the government for cutting back its "plug-in grant" for low-emission cars, reducing it from £4,500 to £3,500 for the cleanest cars in October 2018, and cutting it completely for other green vehicles.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, Shapps confirmed the government also wants to pull the plug on the £3,500 grant — though didn't indicate when exactly the incentive will be scrapped. The transport minister has used the subsidy himself to buy a Tesla Model 3.
The consultation will close on 14 January, after which government will analyse responses. ®