The Labour Party has today confirmed it has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps calling on him to bring forward the ban on sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has already backed proposals to accelerate a scheduled deadline for the ban from 2040 and Shapps himself has suggested the cut-off date could be brought forward as early as 2032.
However, Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s shadow minister for climate change, said 2030 is an ‘ambitious but achievable’ target date that would help to ‘create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and reduce air pollution’.
New petrol, diesel and hybrid cars should be banned from 2030, the Labour Party has said in a letter to transport minister Grant Shapps
The letter intensifies the growing pressure on the transport minister to accelerate the switch to electric cars more rapidly, with reports suggesting Mr Shapps is already being pushed by many Tory MPs to phase out polluting vehicles to improve the nation’s air quality.
The current deadline for the end of sales of combustion engine cars is 2040 but a consultation began earlier this year on bringing that date forward.
The Government is due to publish results of the consultation this month and could favour a two-tier approach with pure petrol and diesel cars banned from 2035 and hybrids (which have petrol engines to supplement onboard batteries and electric motors) phased out five years further down the line.
However, Labour has urged decision makers to introduce a blanket ban at the earliest of the two dates.
A 2030 deadline would bring the UK in line with other countries, including Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, which intend to only sell new electric cars from that point.
Labour’s Mr Pennycook warned that having a cut-off date any later than 2030 ‘risks further damage to the UK’s car industry’ and the nation’s ‘credibility on the global stage’ as hosts of the COP26 -the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties – summit in Glasgow next year.
Matthew Pennycook (left), Labour’s shadow minister for climate change, said 2030 is an ‘ambitious but achievable’ target date that would help to ‘create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and reduce air pollution’ in a letter sent to Grant Shapps (right)
In his letter, Mr Pennycook wrote: ‘2030 is an ambitious but achievable date by which to phase out the sale of new petrol, diesel, and hybrid vehicles, one that would give a new lease of life to the UK car industry, whilst combatting climate breakdown and cleaning up the air that dangerously pollutes so many of our towns and cities.
‘But as well as accelerating the phase out, the Government must also set out a credible plan to get there – one that backs the low-carbon jobs and industries of the future and ensures that workers and communities are properly supported in the transition to a fairer and cleaner economy.
‘It’s time for Ministers to seize this opportunity as part of a world-leading green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, creating good jobs across the country, and generating real momentum for next year’s COP26 climate summit.’
The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s independent advisory body, said in June that the phase-out date for new cars with petrol and diesel engines must be brought forward to ‘2032 at the latest’ if the UK is to meet its legally-binding 2050 net-zero emissions target.
That demand was backed by a third of Tory MPs last month who voted in favour of a 2030 deadline as part of plans to ‘build back greener’ after the coronavirus pandemic.
Pressure is mounting on policy makers to fast-track the 2040 ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars to accelerate the shift to cleaner electric vehicles that are better for the environment
Labour claims by implementing an earlier cut-off date, the Government would secure not only significant environmental and public health benefits but would ‘create new high-skilled jobs in towns and cities across the country’.
The party said in a statement: ‘Studies suggest that manufacturing batteries to replace internal combustion engines, for instance, would boost direct employment in the automotive industry from about 170,000 jobs today to as many as 220,000 by 2040.
‘In contrast, a failure to accelerate the development and rollout of new technologies risks exacerbating the severe challenges already facing the UK car industry.’
It added: ‘The UK risks falling behind while other nations race ahead towards ending the use of fossil fuel cars.’
Despite a fall in demand for new cars caused mostly in part by the Covid-19 crisis, sales of electric vehicles are – relatively – booming.
In the first eight months of the year, 44,708 new battery electric cars have been registered – up 157 per cent on the same period a year earlier.
But while demand is undeniably growing, battery-powered cars still account for just one in 20 new motors sold in the UK.
New car registration data for August – published today – shows that battery electric vehicle (BEV) demand is up 157% year-on-year. Some 44,708 pure electric cars have been bought so far in 2020, though they still only make up 1 in 20 new motors purchased in the UK
While MPs are desperately trying to bring forward the deadline for the ban on new petrol and diesel cars in the UK, consumer surveys suggest many Britons believe they won’t want a battery-powered vehicle by 2035, not least five years sooner
A nationwide survey by the UK’s automotive trade body published earlier this month found that 44 per cent of motorists don’t think they’ll be ready to run a battery vehicle in 2035, many of them saying they can’t see themselves ever owning one.
The poll commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders found that just over a third are ‘optimistic’ about buying a full electric vehicle by 2025 – some 15 years earlier than the ban is currently due to be enforced.
But plenty more people are concerned that battery cars aren’t right for them, with 44 per cent saying they won’t be ready to make the switch by 2035.
A quarter of the 2,185 drivers interviewed claimed they don’t foresee themselves ever buying an electric car in their lifetimes, despite the impeding ban in 2035.
Commenting on the survey results, SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: ‘Manufacturers are working hard to make zero and ultra-low emissions the norm and are committed to working with government to accelerate the shift to net zero – but obstacles remain.
‘Until these vehicles are as affordable to buy and as easy to own and operate as conventional cars, we risk the UK being in the slow lane, undermining industry investment and holding back progress,’ he added.
The SMMT said it is imperative for the government to ramp-up the availability of incentives to encourage motorists to ditch their petrol and diesel cars in favour of cleaner electric vehicles – else the nation will fail to hit its targets for cutting pollution
The YouGov poll found that the UK is lagging behind when it comes to plans to buy an electric vehicle next
A separate YouGov survey of 11,000 European motorists in June found that just 17 per cent of Britons are considering purchasing an electric vehicle as their next car – the lowest figure for the nine countries analysed (Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden).
However, UK driver interest in electric vehicles in June was measured 3 per cent higher than it was when the same YouGov poll was conducted in January – months before the coronavirus pandemic struck Europe.
When it comes to recommending plug-in vehicles, the UK was measured among the highest across the European markets surveyed.
In January, 16 per cent of Britons recommended an electric car to friends, family or colleagues. By June, this figure increased to 22 per cent.
This represents the largest increase of any country surveyed – and in terms of recommendation the UK is now only behind Italy (23 per cent) and Spain (26 per cent), the study said.
As well as public appetite for electric vehicles, the government has also set ambitious targets for the UK to be at the forefront of the industry, promising funds to ramp-up the nation’s research and development for both electric and autonomous vehicles.
Britishvolt is currently looking to secure a site to build the nation’s first Tesla-rivalling ‘gigafactory’ for the production of electric car batteries, with St Athan in South Wales said to be the preferred location.
The firm said the initial wave of £1.2billion of investment into the site will eventually lead to around 3,500 jobs.
The Mini Electric is one of just two mainstream battery-powered models produced in the UK. BMW’s Plant Oxford has already built more than 11,000 examples in a year
Currently, the Mini Electric and Nissan Leaf are the only mainstream battery electric cars produced in the UK in Oxford and Sunderland respectively.
In a statement issued in response to news of Mr Pennycook’s letter to the transport minister, Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: ‘Hats off to Labour for backing a 2030 ban for all new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans.
‘They have joined the chorus of businesses and councils that have also been calling for a more ambitious phase out date and policies to support workers to transition, in order to dramatically reduce emissions and help secure a future for the UK automotive industry.
‘Now that Labour and over 100 Conservative MPs have thrown down the gauntlet, will the government live up to their claims of being a world leader on climate, and back a 2030 ban too?’