• Kimia Ipakchi

The UK Government's 2030 Ban on New Petrol and Diesel Cars: Is it Enough?

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls it a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’. The UK’s 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars is the latest development in the government’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. How effective it will be, however, depends on the government’s commitment to make electric vehicles more accessible in such a short time frame.


The UK government's 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars: is it enough to curb climate change?

Why is it happening and why has it been brought forward?


On 18th November, the UK government announced that the plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2040 would be brought forward by 10 years. The policy is part of the UK’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2050.


The government will also be investing £4 billion as part of a broader £12 billion package of public investment, which Business Secretary Alok Sharma assures will bring money into the private sector as well as create 250,000 jobs.


The pandemic has also played a role in this decision. Changes in working culture and mobilisation have exasperated discussions on investment and support for environmental policy and change.


The UK government's 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars

What does this mean for current and future car owners and buyers?


As the ban comes closer to fruition, we can expect to see larger discounts on any remaining petrol and diesel cars and vans, as well as more government incentives designed to encourage buyers to opt for electric models.


Furthermore, new hybrids can remain on sale until 2035, but it is unclear if this includes all hybrid types such as mild, full and plug-in hybrids.



Is the UK ready to go electric?


Having been described as an “Herculean effort”, there is uncertainty as to whether the UK is prepared to go fully electric. While there has been an increase in electric car sales, it still remains a small percentage. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that year-to-date sales of electric cars is 5.4%, up from just 1.3% when compared with the same period in 2019.


One of the issues behind the low increase is pricing. Electric cars still remain generally more expensive than their non-electric counterparts. Charging is also an issue. Surveys show that most charging happens at home as the UK public charging network accounts for just 16% of electric car charging. This becomes a problem as not all electric car owners can charge at home. In a bid to boost the UK's charging infrastructure, in January of this year the government doubled its electric vehicle (EV) charger fund allocation to £10 million in an effort to encourage EV uptake in urban areas.


How will switching to electric cars curb the climate crisis?

A global effort: a comparison across countries


How does the UK’s ban compare to actions taken by other countries?


The new policy will put Britain ahead of France, which plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2040, and on par with Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, which also have a 2030 ban. It is also a way of putting pressure on other countries to reduce emissions in the run-up to major climate negotiations, which Britain will host next year.



Criticism


Despite the £4 billion investment, some experts say it is still not enough for the severity of the challenge. The total amount of new money announced in the package is a 25th of the projected £100bn cost of high-speed rail, HS2.


A report from transport thinktank New Automotive estimates that the government would need to set a sales ban of 2026 or introduce extra measures to reduce car use if it hopes to meet its own 2030 carbon budget. There is also dispute as to how the money should be spent.



An investment into our future


The goal to become carbon neutral is not an easy one. Policies like the 2030 ban become crucial in ensuring the UK is on track to achieving its environmental commitments. While it will require further urban developments and investing, going electric is a necessary step in the path to a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ and in combating the climate crisis.



For more resources and information on this evolving topic, head to our dedicated Climate Crisis section.

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