Britain is to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2035, five years earlier than previously planned.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to make the commitment in a speech today as he announces details of a UN climate summit (known as COP26) due to take place in Glasgow in November. The change comes after some experts had suggested the earlier 2040 date was too late if the UK wants to hit a national target of net zero carbon contribution by 2050.
Once the ban comes into force, people will only be able to buy electric cars (which could also be hydrogen powered). The updated ban also includes hybrids. It is currently a proposal that is subject to consultation, but Johnson did not rule out bringing it even further forward.
“Hosting COP26 is an important opportunity for the UK and nations across the globe to step up in the fight against climate change,” Johnson said in a statement. “As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions.”
The 2040 date was seen by some as likely to leave a large number of fossil-fuel burning vehicles still in use by 2050.
However, the automotive industry was critical of the earlier timescale. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said that government had ‘moved the goalposts’.
“With current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment.”
“It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue,” Hawes said. “Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020. However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. This is about market transformation, yet we still don’t have clarity on the future of the plug-in car grant – the most significant driver of EV uptake – which ends in just 60 days’ time, while the UK’s charging network is still woefully inadequate.
“If the UK is to lead the global zero emissions agenda, we need a competitive marketplace and a competitive business environment to encourage manufacturers to sell and build here. A date without a plan will merely destroy value today. So we therefore need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”