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Tue, 27 October 2020

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The Government should enable the low-carbon transition, but the private sector can drive behaviour change

The Government should enable the low-carbon transition, but the private sector can drive behaviour change

Credit: InPost

Jason Tavaria, CEO (UK) | InPost

3 min read Partner content

While minds in Westminster and Whitehall are understandably trained on fighting the pandemic, the most important long term policy question has not gone away. How do we transition to net zero carbon while simultaneously promoting economic growth?

The COVID crisis has had a catastrophic impact on the UK, both in terms of lives lost and the damage to our economy. But it has also given us a glimpse of the future.

In a world of lockdowns and social distancing, we have seen an extraordinary, irreversible surge in online deliveries.

On any given day there are now more than 150,000 e-commerce delivery vehicles on UK roads bringing parcels to millions of doorsteps across the country.

With thousands more parcel vans on the road, we will see an increase in congestion in our cities and towns as well as a reduction in air quality, severely hampering our efforts to hit the UK’s net-zero target. The World Economic Forum is estimating that demand for doorstep delivery will soar by 78% by 2030 if nothing is done about this.

This could lead to even greater policy problems around the challenging issue of last-mile delivery – with thousands more parcel vans on the road, we will see an increase in congestion in our cities and towns, as well as a reduction in air quality. And crucially emissions will rise too, severely hampering our efforts to hit the UK’s net-zero target.

This is a problem that could be solved through legislation, public spending or taxation. But there is a simpler solution, utilising private sector investment and consumer behaviour change.

A number of options exist for out of home delivery and collection that can help take large numbers of vans off the road in the months and years ahead. In Europe, over 50% of all deliveries are collected out of home.  The UK needs to follow suit and address our addiction to home delivery.  

By using parcel lockers, delivery vans can make one journey and drop off 50-100 parcels at one location, rather than driving round residential streets for hours making deliveries to hundreds of different homes. 

It’s an approach that is already working in Poland’s capital Warsaw, which has built an extensive network of parcel lockers across the city.

Promoting out of home delivery will provide a boost to economic growth while helping the UK achieve our net zero targets, all without requiring any public investment.

As a result, two out of three residents now choose lockers ahead of home delivery, which means there are far fewer delivery vans than in British cities, savings around 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the equivalent of taking 16,000 cars off the road.

Lockers can also provide real convenience during these uncertain times, offering non-contact and 24/7 options for delivery and collection. We know that this is really valued by key workers and shift workers. 

And the good news for policymakers is that we don’t need a huge amount of political intervention to build a similar network across the UK.

Companies are already willing to invest heavily in expansion.

With the right policy framework in place, and with local authorities willing to consent to lockers and delivery points in their areas, the private sector will be able to provide the investment and logistical capability required to deliver these solutions around the country.

Promoting out of home delivery will provide a boost to economic growth while helping the UK achieve our net zero targets, all without requiring any public investment.

It is that rarest of policy proposals – a win-win for communities, business and the public finances.

As we work towards reopening the economy, and with next year’s COP26 on the horizon, the prize is there for the taking.

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