The government have released a ten-point policy plan this month which has outlined how the UK is to become carbon-zero by 2050. A key feature of this ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called it, is the pledge to ban the sale of petrol cars by 2030.
Although this policy is a huge step forward in the government’s scheme to tackle climate change, there are multiple aspects of the plan that indicate that it will fall short of addressing the scale of the crisis.
Whilst this drastic change will mean that UK cities see cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions, the government’s proposals do not match the scale of the current climate crisis.
Whilst it could be said that any policy would struggle to achieve widespread impact as an isolated piece of legislation, it is particularly relevant in this case.
Although there has been recent growth of electric vehicles in the sector, they still only have 7% of the market share. In 2019, only 1.6% of new cars registered were battery powered
Theoretically, the banning of petrol vehicles in 2030 will reduce carbon emissions; however, the policy understates the urgency required if we are to achieve the necessary changes within society.
Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party, has stated that government’s plan ‘fails to rise to the gravity of this moment’. This statement aptly articulates why this policy is only a minimal concession, as it does not correspond to the severity of the situation, and is ignoring other necessary changes that need to be made.
The severity of the current situation raises questions as to why no concrete green policies have been laid out since 1990. It brings into debate whether this policy is all ‘too little too late’?
The transport thinktank, New Automotive, have issued a report which warns that the plan is not going to suffice in reducing carbon emissions. They have stated that the market share of electric vehicles is increasing too slowly for the plan to be effective once implemented in 2030.
Although there has been recent growth of electric vehicles in the sector, they still only have 7% of the market share. In 2019, only 1.6% of new cars registered were battery powered.
Whilst the banning of petrol cars appears to be a monumental step forward, it is, in reality, a figurehead for a green policy that contains an array of grey areas
These figures need to rise drastically before 2030 to make the transition from petrol cars efficient and beneficial. The New Automotive report also describes how a ‘package of measures’ is needed to reduce petrol emissions.
This suggestion demonstrates the shortcomings of the petrol car ban, as it is apparent that multiple, gradual reforms will be necessary over the next decade to allow for the plan to produce tangible results.
Dr Johnathan Marshall, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, has stated that the plan ‘ticks off a number of boxes but there still remain some prominent gaps’.
Marshall hits at the core of the issues surrounding the proposals. Whilst the banning of petrol cars appears to be a monumental step forward, it is, in reality, a figurehead for a green policy that contains an array of grey areas.
Former Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, has criticised the plan for its lack of resources, stating that the current funding is not enough to make the plan effective
One of the key issues with the policy is the volume of petrol cars that will still be on the road in 2030 and the decade following.
New Automotive have stated that a ‘ban in the 2030s will do nothing to tackle the long tail of polluting cars that will be left on our roads for many years to come’.
It is evident, therefore, that the government need to be proactive in gradually reducing the number of petrol cars being sold this coming decade, rather than settling for this one performative action in 2030.
As it stands, the government’s plan will only have a minimal impact, particularly in the short-term, as it will take many years for the transition to electric vehicles to produce beneficial changes.
Former Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, has criticised the plan for its lack of resources, stating that the current funding is not enough to make the plan effective.
Therefore, whilst it cannot be denied that the banning of petrol vehicles in 2030 is a positive step forward, the urgency of the climate crisis is not mirrored in the government’s plan
The funds being allocated to this transition are not enough to achieve the overhaul desired. £4 billion has been allotted for the ten-point plan, which seems insufficient in achieving the changes necessary .
A vast ‘policy overhaul’ is needed to have a lasting and significant impact, Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth has stated. The funds which are being invested into the government’s plan will not be able to achieve this huge and highly necessary ‘overhaul’ of society.
The Green Party have also stated that a transformation of the entire economy is necessary to make these reforms worthwhile, which cannot be achieved through this ten-point plan, or, alternatively, they suggest a ban on all petrol fuelled cars.
Therefore, whilst it cannot be denied that the banning of petrol vehicles in 2030 is a positive step forward, the urgency of the climate crisis is not mirrored in the government’s plan.
The long overdue proposals seem almost feeble. Furthermore, they have not been allocated the time and resources required to achieve climate goals and make the policy highly impactful.
The plan is a very small step in a much wider crisis, so the level of impact this change will have is undoubtedly up for debate.
‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ – Gov.uk https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936567/10_POINT_PLAN_BOOKLET.pdf
‘UK Ban on New Fossil Fuel Vehicles by 2030 Not Enough to Hit Climate Changes’ – The Guardian, November 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/18/uk-ban-on-new-fossil-fuel-vehicles-by-2030-not-enough-to-hit-climate-targets
‘We Must Close the Loopholes in Britain’s Carbon Budget Emissions’ – The Guardian, November 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/12/close-the-loopholes-in-britains-carbon-budget-emissions
‘UK Sets Ambitious New 2030s Carbon Target’ – The Guardian, November 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/30/uk-sets-ambitious-new-2030s-carbon-target
Featured image courtesy of CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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