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UK brings combustion car sales ban forward to 2035

The UK government is to bring forward the ban on sales of combustion engine vehicles from 2040 to 2035.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new target at the launch of the UN-led COP26 climate change summit this morning.

The original ban on sales of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles was announced in July 2017 but was immediately criticised as not going far enough. The UK has since committed to emitting net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To help achieve this, the ban was moved so fewer new combustion vehicles would be on the road at that time.

In 2018 this goal was expanded into making all cars “effectively zero emission”. The move was called “vague and unambitious” by parliament’s business select committee, but trade body The Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said moving the ban to MPs’ preferred date would be “nigh on impossible.”

On Friday, president of COP26 Claire O’Neill was fired by Johnson. She told the BBC this morning that Johnson’s government showed a “huge lack of leadership and engagement”.

She said: “My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises […] is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it and make sure the money’s in the bank.”

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue.

“[…] With current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment.

“[…] So we therefore need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”

Friends of the Earth head of policy Mike Childs said: “The government is right to accelerate the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars to curb air pollution and address the climate emergency, but the ban should start in 2030 – not 2035.

“If the UK government wants to show real leadership ahead of this year’s climate summit it must also urgently reverse its plans for more climate-wrecking roads and runways – and pull the plug on its support for new gas, coal and oil developments.”

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