Speaking to an audience of international government ministers and businesspeople at the International Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham, Carolyn Fairbairn, set out three ways the UK can reach its goal of a zero-emission future – pushing further on free trade and combatting protectionism, building consumer confidence and developing innovation partnerships around the globe.
On international collaboration and fighting protectionism, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:
“Right now, countries around the world are setting their zero-emission targets and making plans to meet them. But let’s be frank. If we are to meet those targets, we shall do so together or not at all. No one country can succeed alone.
“And that means we must keep trade strong. There’s a reason this industry is international. It’s because launching a car is expensive - especially a car that uses new technology - so it requires a global marketplace. That’s why the zero-emission transition needs free trade.
“Protectionism is dangerous. Not just for business, not just for consumers, but for our environment. Protectionism is the wrong answer, to the wrong question, at the wrong moment.
“So, our first opportunity for accelerating the transition to zero-emission is to deepen international collaboration on free trade.
“There’s another international opportunity, too. If we are to reap the rewards of specialisation, we must also secure the certainties of standardisation.
“In the race to create new products, let us agree common standards. It will take consultation and collaboration, but if emissions are a global problem then we need global solutions.”
On building consumer confidence, Carolyn said:
“The transition to zero-emissions is not just about ensuring we build the vehicles – that’s only half the story. The other half is about ensuring demand.
“Encouraging people to see that their next car must be a zero-emission car and giving them the confidence to move away from a technology that has defined our lives for a century.
“If people are worried about the car’s driving range, the infrastructure, the cost of installing chargers at home, battery longevity or a host of other possible concerns, then they just won’t make the switch. They’ll stick with what they know.
“And it’s here that government support goes a long way. Through making vehicles affordable, easing consumers’ range anxiety and joining forces with business to invest in charge-points across our road networks.
“And governments can help design the zero-emission vehicle eco-system that makes the low-emission choice the easy choice and, ultimately, the only choice.
“It’s already started in cities like New York and San Francisco. With their carpooling lanes, open to zero-emission vehicles. Or in Shenzhen, with their all-electric bus fleet. Or Milton Keynes’ free parking for electric cars.
“We want business to be bold in providing the supply. But governments must be bold in fuelling demand, too. It’s a technological change, but also a cultural change. And business can’t do that alone.”
On innovation and universities, Carolyn said:
“The transition to zero-emissions presents the greatest set of technical challenges since the space race.
“And like the space race, they’re not challenges business or the Government can solve alone. There’s a vital third partner: our universities, where so much of the technology will first take shape.
“In Europe, universities and businesses have already built links across the continent. The European Framework Programmes have been great at connecting science and industry, and they will be all the stronger with the UK involved after Brexit.
“But let’s now extend those partnerships beyond Europe – to the US, China, India, Japan and other countries.
“So continental links become global links, because our universities are the hinge on which the door to the zero-emission transition turns.”