In what would give a significant boost to the UK EV (electric car) industry, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be planning to ban the sale of new fossil-fuel cars by 2035, five years earlier than planned. According to reports in the UK media, he is expected to bring the ban forward as part of Ten Point Plan ofnew environmental measures due to be announced later this week.
The package is aimed to help the country achieve its climate targets, one of which is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050. The plan aims to create thousands of new jobs and will also include the creation of several new national parks and greater protections for some of England’s iconic landscapes
Coincidence or not, the new green thrust comes after a momentous week in both global and domestic UK politics that has seen Joe Biden heading for the White House and a ‘palace coup‘ within Downing Street. Both events make the rekindling of Johnson’s vigour in the battle against climate change timely. Biden is being widely predicted to make the environment one of his top priorities and the Prime Minister will be anxious to re-align himself with the Democrat agenda – and to distance himself as quickly as he can from outgoing US President Donald Trump. On the home front, the departure of arch-Brexiteer Dominic Cummings gives Johnson the opportunity to reset the Government’s political agenda, and that now includes paying more attention to the environmental lobby.
One body that has already made itself heard is that of the car industry and its Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) trade association, which has become increasingly vocal on the issue of electric vehicles (EVs). In September, its research showed that, despite demand doubling in the previous twelve months, the number of UK EVs bought in August 2020 only accounted for 7% of all car sales int he country.
“Car makers are leading the charge to zero emission motoring, with massive investment in new models fuelling huge consumer interest but they can’t transform the market alone. To give consumers confidence to take the leap into these technologies, we need government and other sectors to step up and match UK EV manufacturers’ commitment by investing in the incentives and infrastructure needed to power our electric future.”
The SMMT has previously called for the government to commit to significant long-term incentives for UK EV purchases and to set fixed targets on charging infrastructure, arguing that higher prices and concerns about charging are keeping sales down. The government is now expected to provide around £500m funding for charging infrastructure from next year.
There is another factor fuelling Johnson’s decision to publicise his commitment to climate change as well. Last September, the UK won the bid to host the UN-backed 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021. COVID-19 permitting, up to 30,000 delegates are expected to descend on Glasgow to formulate an international response to the climate emergency. Johnson will be all too aware that they will expect their hosts to be leading by example.