The UK government is expected to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol vehicles by 10 years to 2030, it was reported on Monday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the plans in the coming weeks, along with other policies that will aim to help spur a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, reports said.
It is hoped that rescheduling the ban — previously set to come into force in 2040 — will boost the sale of electric cars.
The government had previously considered the option of bringing forward the deadline on banning fossil fuel vehicles by five years, to 2035. But it now considers the earlier date of 2030 to be a viable option, after being assured by operators at the National Grid, the UK’s electricity supplier, that it will be ready to cope with the switch.
Graeme Cooper, the project director working on National Grid’s efforts to be ready for electric vehicles, is confident the electricity grid will be able to cope with a “faster transition”, he said.
Meanwhile, Matthew Pennycock, Labour’s shadow minister for climate change, told the Guardian that bringing forward the ban on petrol cars would give the UK’s car industry “a new lease of life.”
It would also help the country by “combating climate breakdown and cleaning up the air that dangerously pollutes so many of our towns and cities,” he added.
There is evidence that consumers are already opting for more environmentally-friendly options when buying cars. According to MailOnline, for example, sales of low-emissions cars in 2020 overtook the sale of diesel cars for the first time in the UK — with 33,000 pure electric and hybrid cars registered between April and June, compared with 29,900 diesels during the same period.
That doesn’t, however, mean that polluting cars are completely on their way out with consumers. A report from a group of campaigners calling for adverts for polluting products to be banned pointed out in August that large, heavy polluting vehicles like sports utility vehicles (SUVs), are becoming more popular in the UK.
In fact SUVs make up 40% of all new car sales in the UK, and 60% of the growth in car sales worldwide since 2010, the group's research found.
Johnson has been urged to bring forward the date of the ban on petrol vehicles by a group of Conservative MPs called the One Nation Group. They set out the idea in a report on how the UK could “build back greener” that they published in August.
The 2030 ban is also supported by the Committee on Climate Change, an independent public body that advises the government on climate change, and which called on politicians to use the COVID-19 recovery plans to make progress on climate targets in its June report.
The UK became the first country in the G7 — a group of the world’s largest seven economies — to legislate to hit net zero emissions by 2050 in June last year. However environmental campaigners have argued that the ambitions must go further if the target is going to truly make a difference.
Earlier this month, the direct action climate group Extinction Rebellion backed a new bill brought to parliament that they say would strengthen the 2050 target by bringing in industries, such as shipping and aviation, that are currently exempt from having to reach net zero.
Kwasi Kwarteng, a Conservative MP and the minister for clean energy, also confirmed on Monday that he will be releasing a white paper — a document setting out proposals for future laws — this autumn on how the government plans to achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2050.