Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that a ban on petrol and diesel cars in Britain will be expanded and brought forward to 2035 — five years earlier than previously planned under the premiership of Theresa May in July 2017.
The pledge was made at the launch of COP26, which stands for Conference of the Parties: a critical climate crisis summit due to take place in Glasgow from Nov. 9 to Nov. 20 this year.
It’s been lauded as the biggest climate conference since the historic Paris Agreement in 2015, which set a global consensus and roadmap on reducing carbon emissions to slow down global warming.
The new ban announced on Tuesday now also includes hybrid cars and vans, meaning that you would only be able to purchase electric or hydrogen vehicles after 2035.
Indeed, Johnson claimed that it could happen even sooner after experts warned the earlier 2040 target would leave too little legroom to achieve the legal requirement to hit “net zero” emissions by 2050 enshrined in law last year.
However, although climate activists welcomed the acceleration, they warned that the new deadline was still not soon enough — and many argued that 2030 is the latest we could aim for and still hit our net-zero goals.
“A new 2035 target will still leave the UK in the slow-lane of the electric car revolution and meantime allow more greenhouse gases to spew into the atmosphere," Mike Childs, head of science, policy, and research at Friends of the Earth, told the BBC.
New date for phasing out of internal combustion engine vehicles:— Doug Parr (@doug_parr) February 4, 2020
1. 2035 is better than 2040
2. Zero emission, so no hybrids or plug-in hybrids
3. Cars AND vans, not just cars
4. But it needs to be 2030 to meet carbon budgetshttps://t.co/EIF1gGMAeJ
The launch of COP26 at London’s Science Museum on Tuesday was overshadowed by a very public row over Johnson’s credentials on the climate crisis.
Much of the criticism came from Claire O’Neill, who was sacked from her role leading COP26 on Friday by Dominic Cummings, the political strategist who is now Johnson’s chief advisor.
O’Neill wrote an open letter to Johnson saying Britain was “miles off track” on addressing the climate crisis — and told BBC Radio 4’s Today Show that Johnson had “admitted to me he doesn’t really understand [climate change].”
🌍 💪 💚 🇬🇧— COP26 (@COP26) February 4, 2020
The wait is over...⏰
Today PM @BorisJohnson and Sir David Attenborough are launching #COP26 and the 2020 Year of Climate Action at the @sciencemuseum.
Follow for updates 👇
🔹 @COP26, Twitter 🐦
🔹 @uk_yoca, Instagram 📸#YoCA2020@10DowningStreet#ClimateActionpic.twitter.com/oSE8RSZ2ot
Johnson did not refer to the fallout from O’Neill’s sacking at the launch of COP26 — but did emphasise the significance of the summit as a turning point in a much larger fight to tackle the climate crisis.
“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 speech on Tuesday. “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.”
“2020 must be the year we turn the tide on global warming,” he added. “It will be the year when we choose a cleaner, greener future for all.”
“Delighted to launch the UN Climate Summit @COP26 with Sir David Attenborough at the @sciencemuseum this morning. There is no greater responsibility than protecting our planet, and no mission that a Global Britain is prouder to serve.” — PM @BorisJohnsonpic.twitter.com/X7kWfReaRE— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) February 4, 2020