LONDON: Britain will ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035, five years earlier than planned, in an attempt to reduce air pollution that could herald the end of over a century of reliance on the internal combustion engine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to use the announcement to elevate the United Kingdom’s environmental credentials after he sacked the head of a Glasgow UN Climate Change Conference planned for November known as COP26.
“We have to deal with our CO2 emissions, and that is why the UK is calling for us to get to net zero as soon as possible, to get every country to announce credible targets to get there thats what we want from Glasgow,” Johnson said on Tuesday at a launch event for COP26 at London’s Science Museum, alongside broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough.
“We know as a country, as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act.” The two-week COP26 summit is seen as a moment of truth for the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming with responsibility for persuading big polluting countries to agree more ambitious emissions cuts falling on the British hosts.
Britain has pledged to reach net zero by 2050, but Greenpeace UK Head of Politics Rebecca Newsom said Johnson needed to take broader action than cleaning up transport.
“We need a complete rethink of the way we power our economy, build homes, move around and grow our food,” she said.
Britain’s step amounts to a victory for electric cars that if copied globally could hit the wealth of oil producers, as well as transform the car industry and one of the icons of 20th Century capitalism: the automobile itself.
Countries and cities around the world have announced plans to crack down on diesel vehicles following the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal and the EU is introducing tougher carbon dioxide rules.
The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025. France is preparing to ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2040 and Norway’s parliament has set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars should be zero emissions.
While some automakers may find it hard to countenance the end of the combustion engine, others have embraced a future in which electric vehicles prevail.
The ban poses a threat to German jobs as Britain is the biggest global export market for its car manufacturers, amounting to about 20pc of global sales, and electric cars take less time to build than combustion-engined or hybrid variants.
The government said that, subject to consultation, it planned to bring forward an end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035, or earlier if a faster transition was possible.