Most UK cars must be electric by 2030, climate change watchdog tells government
It was 12 years ago that David Cameron urged voters to “vote blue, go green”. Despite voting blue in the three general elections in those intervening years, the country has barely changed hue, and we’re in danger of missing our greenhouse gas targets unless we go further, faster, according to the government’s climate change watchdog.
To that end, the Committee on Climate Change has urged ministers to be far bolder than they pledged to be in its clean growth strategy, published last October. Recommendations include ensuring that three-fifths of new cars are electric by 2030, incentivising energy efficiency measures for households and 70,000 hectares of new woodland to be planted by 2025.
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The existing clean growth strategy is described by the government as “an ambitious blueprint for Britain’s low carbon future.” And although the committee agrees that it demonstrates that going green is a “central part of the government’s economic policy,” the take-home message is that it’s not ambitious enough to actually hit legal targets.
“The strategy doesn’t deliver enough action to meet emissions targets in the 2020s and 2030s,” the committee’s chairman Lord Deben said. “The Government’s policies and proposals will need to be firmed up as a matter of urgency – and supplemented with additional measures if the UK is to deliver on its legal commitments and secure its position as an international climate change leader.”
Between 30% and 70% of new cars need to be ultra-low emission by 2030, alongside 40% of new vans. That would go a long way to phasing out petrol and diesel by 2040, as the government already aims to do. To come back to that word “ambitious” again, currently, fewer than 5% of vehicles sold meet that spec.
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The Green Alliance’s policy director Dustin Benton is unimpressed by the progress made so far. “The government says clean growth is the biggest economic opportunity of the century, but, as the Committee on Climate Change has highlighted today, its transport and housing policy is still stuck in the past,” he said.
“It’s shocking that emissions from transport have risen, despite huge technological innovation. EVs are now as cheap to run as conventional cars and we calculate that banning petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 – rather than the government’s 2040 target – would halve UK oil imports. It’s a no-brainer for industry too: the UK has a £5 billion trade deficit in fossil-fuelled cars but Europe’s largest EV plant is in the UK. If the Department for Transport doesn’t catch up soon the electric cars of the future won’t be made in Britain.”
A spokesperson from the government’s business department highlighted the UK’s progress on climate change saying: “The UK has reduced emissions on a per-person basis faster than any other G7 nation, and our clean growth strategy is the next ambitious milestone in our work to de-carbonise the UK.”
Despite this, the spokesperson indicated that the government would examine the findings of the committee, stating: “The scrutiny of the independent Committee on Climate Change plays an important role.
“We have always said it is only the start of a process. Our proposals will continue to evolve – whether in response to costs of renewable energy coming down, improved evidence about climate change, wider trends in technology or the economic opportunities delivered through our industrial strategy.”