A GOVERNMENT subsidy scheme to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles is under development and will play a key role in delivering on the Island’s carbon-neutral commitments, the Environment Minister has said.
Deputy Jonathan Renouf admitted that the take-up of eco-friendly vehicles fell well below that of countries where subsidies had been offered to those wanting to trade in high-polluting cars. He said that Jersey was ‘lagging significantly behind in the actual take-up of EVs, because we haven’t had a subsidy structure in place – whereas other jurisdictions have’.
However, he explained that the government was committed to providing financial support to those wishing to reduce their emissions and added that the Island was ‘not in a bad place’ when it came to the number of charging points available.
There were 1,789 EVs registered in Jersey at the end of last year, compared to 1,365 at the end of 2021.
In 2019, the States Assembly declared a climate emergency, with plans to become carbon neutral by 2030 established following a proposition lodged by Deputy Rob Ward. However, criticism has been levelled at the government’s Carbon Neutral Roadmap, which pushed the 2030 deadline back to 2050.
The roadmap includes provision for a ban on the sale, registration and importation of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.
Deputy Renouf said that the replacement of petrol and diesel vehicles by electric motors remained a key component of the Carbon Neutral Roadmap.
He said: ‘That [a subsidy scheme] is currently being worked on with a view to being announced in the next few months. The actual targeting of it – the level at which it is applied, the types of vehicles that qualify and the threshold value of those cars – those components have to be defined before the policy can go live.’
Last week, the States Assembly unanimously agreed to establish a five-member Climate Council, which will assess whether the government is on course to meet its carbon-cutting targets.
Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune, who holds political responsibility for climate change and energy, stressed that increasing the use of electric vehicles was only one element of reducing emissions from transport.
She added: ‘We are also working to strengthen public transport options, and encouraging walking and cycling.’
And she refused to rule out the introduction of a congestion charge – although this would not come into force during the first phase of the Carbon Neutral Roadmap.
The introduction of a congestion or ‘ultra-low emission zone’ – such as those in cities including London and Sheffield – is currently not a policy included in the roadmap, which states that the transport sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Jersey.
Deputy Jeune said the prospect of a congestion charge was a policy the government ‘could potentially look into in future’ and added that it could ‘be part of a revenue-raising, longer-term financing strategy’.
In 2018, then-Environment Minister John Young called for the introduction of a congestion charge for motorists in St Helier during peak times to cut vehicle emissions.
Speaking this week, he said: ‘It is a gap in the Carbon [Neutral] Roadmap and should be there. We have very severe pollution from vehicles, that are non-compliant with standards, that are damaging to lungs.
‘I take the position clearly that we are not managing the traffic in our town area and what we need is ways in which we can manage that traffic flow. The impact of traffic on pollution, on people’s lives, their health, and their residences are huge, and if we don’t introduce some measures to limit traffic, then it will just increase and increase. We desperately need to do so.’
Other solutions the former minister suggested included offering cheaper bus fares to encourage the use of public transport. He noted that a single fare in Guernsey was £1.20, compared to Jersey’s £1.85.
Mr Young added: ‘What we want to avoid is people coming into town by car. The environmental cost of that is not recognised, and options to avoid this are available.’