UK to open hydrogen innovation centre at Expo 2020 Dubai legacy site

Cutting carbon emissions in aviation and shipping is a major challenge for countries, UK minister says

Grant Shapps, the UK's Secretary of State for Transport, speaks at a forum on the future of transport hosted at Expo 2020 Dubai.
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Hydrogen-powered transport will be the focus of research at an innovation centre run by the UAE and UK at District 2020, the legacy project of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Grant Shapps, UK Secretary of State for Transport, said decarbonisation in aviation and shipping was the biggest challenge facing nations seeking to reduce carbon emissions.

Speaking at a future travel forum at the UK pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Mr Shapps urged nations to embrace the “mobility revolution”.

“The biggest challenge is decarbonising international transport,” he said.

If we can decarbonise aviation, the rest of transport is relatively straightforward
Grant Shapps, UK Secretary of State for Transport

"One of our priorities will be to promote different forms of hydrogen-powered transport in Dubai to become a focus of collaboration between the two countries.

“It is one thing to do it domestically, but rising maritime and aviation emissions are a global problem and need a global solution.

“Forward-thinking nations should lead the way. That is why we are supporting a target of zero shipping emission by 2050.

“Transport is on the edge of huge change, a revolution is coming.

“It won’t be triggered by a single innovation, but something more complex and a whole range of technologies using electricity, hydrogen and big data to operate the way we travel.

“We must break a 200-year-old link between the rise in travel and the rise of carbon emissions, that will be our big challenge.”

The UK will open an innovation centre in District 2020, the current Expo site, in 2022, Mr Shapps said.

The centre will be run in collaboration between the two countries, he said.

The forum questioned how to provide futuristic and sustainable transport around the globe.

The event explored social, environmental and economic issues that accompany a need to travel cleanly and efficiently to reduce global carbon emissions.

His speech was followed by panel discussions from industry leaders and academics on the future of travel.

Hydrogen and electric-power critical for sustainable travel

Mr Shapps said hydrogen and electric-powered travel, with a wider adoption of sustainable aviation fuel, were critical to make air travel economically and socially viable in future.

“If we can decarbonise aviation, the rest of transport is relatively straightforward,” he said.

“Long-term targets need to be balanced with short-term goals like expanding the roll-out of sustainable aviation fuels.

“We want to boost that acceleration towards cleaner fuels, and we are working with the UAE to bring that initiative alive.

“We are investing heavily in the UK’s first hydrogen transport hub in the north-east of England.

“Tenders have been announced by BP, Adnoc and Masdar to work together across both countries to develop hydrogen hubs to boost jobs further.

“There are unique challenges ahead, so we must be willing to share ideas, resources, risks and rewards.

“That is the sort of alliance the UK already has with the UAE, with bilateral trade worth more than £30 billion in 2020.

“That will increase, with £10bn of investment from the UAE into the UK’s fastest growing industries, infrastructure and clean energy.”

Sales of new vehicles powered by diesel and petrol are set to be discontinued in the UK by 2030.

Hydrogen-powered car at the Expo 2020 Slovakia Pavilion - in pictures

On the sidelines of Cop26 climate change talks in Glasgow, Scotland, where nations made pledges to reduce carbon emissions, 38 countries and six major vehicle manufacturers signed up to work towards selling only zero-emission vehicles by 2040 or earlier.

“This new revolution will be mobility-plus,” said Mr Shapps.

“Self-driving vehicles will transform lives in isolated communities, particular for the disabled and elderly.

“Drones will distribute goods safely and cleanly, and we have already experimented with this on the Isle of Wight, with drones delivering medicine during the pandemic.

“Another area will be the development of electric vehicles that can recharge on the run or while parked up wirelessly, rather than having to plug them in overnight.”

Updated: November 23, 2021, 5:33 AM