Motorway speed limit cut: why have MPs called for reduction to 64mph?

Government told to examine reducing limit and consider ‘car-free Sundays’ to help accelerate net zero goals

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The government should consider reducing the motorway speed limit to 64mph to help cut the UK’s emissions, according to a group of MPs.

Members of the Environmental Audit Committee said the cut could help accelerate the government’s net zero policy as well as reduce the country’s reliance on oil imports. They also urged ministers to consider other measures to reduce car use, including “car-free Sundays” and encouraging people to work from home.

The suggestion is part of a wider report into accelerating the UK’s shift away from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The report also includes recommendations to make solar panels mandatory on new homes and ramp up renewable energy generation, as well as a programme to encourage domestic energy efficiency.

The committee criticised the government for a lack of focus on transport emissions in the British Energy Security Strategy, despite transport accounting for 23% of all greenhouse gas emissions. It said that while moves to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles should be praised, the transition was too slow and transport emissions need to start falling more rapidly for the UK to meet its successive carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Paris Agreement.

It recommended that the Department for Transport consider “side measures” to rapidly cut transport emissions including those in a 10-point plan from the International Energy Agency which was drafted in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This plan includes cutting motorway speed limits by at least 10km/h (6mph) and encouraging people to work from home three days a week where possible. It also suggests large cities could introduce car-free Sundays and alternate private car use on different days based on registration numbers.

The report noted: “The rapid growth in electric car sales is encouraging, but it will take many years to replace petrol and diesel vehicles. More must be done to improve the energy efficiency of our transport system and reduce its contribution to climate change in the meantime.”

The committee recommended the DfT consider a number of measures to reduce car use The committee recommended the DfT consider a number of measures to reduce car use
The committee recommended the DfT consider a number of measures to reduce car use

Other measures that MPs recommended the DfT consider include promoting car sharing schemes, making public transport cheaper and promoting rail travel as an alternative to flying.

The committee began working on the report shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine and its recommendations focus on how the UK can cut its reliance on oil and gas from overseas as well as cutting pollution.

MPs said the country needed a “war effort” on energy efficiency including accelerating funding for home improvement schemes and the installation of solar panels on all new homes. They also recommended wider use of onshore wind and tidal power generation and urged the government to set a clear date for ending new oil and gas licensing rounds in the North Sea.

Philip Dunne, committee chair and Tory MP, commented: “To reduce the UK’s demand on fossil fuels, we must stop consuming more than we need. Bold action is needed now. The last year, with Russia’s aggression in Europe choking energy supplies, has shown us just how vulnerable our over-reliance on imported fossil fuels can make us.”

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