Boris Johnson, the UK’s prime minister du jour, has announced his government will move forward an existing policy that calls for an end to sale of gasoline, diesel, and hybrid cars by 2040. The new deadline will be pushed forward to 2035 or sooner, if an earlier date is feasible. Appearing with David Attenborough at London’s Science Museum this week, Johnson told the press, “We have to deal with our CO2 emissions, and that is why the UK is calling for us to get to net zero as soon as possible, to get every country to announce credible targets to get there — that’s what we want from Glasgow. We know as a country, as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act.”
Glasgow, in this case, refers to the COP 26 conference scheduled to take place in that city in November. Last week, Johnson fired Clare O’Neill, a former energy minister, as head of the planning committee for COP 26 after she went on BBC and delivered a blistering attack on him. According to Reuters, she told listeners, “My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises — whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees or indeed family members — is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it, and make sure the money is in the bank.” She went on to say that Johnson admitted to her in conversation that he did not understand climate change.
The announcement comes as several cities and other national governments are considering similar bans. Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, and Athens plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centers by 2025. France is preparing to ban the sale of fossil fuel powered cars by 2040 and Norway’s parliament has set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars should be zero emissions. Sweden has announced the formation of a commission to study the issue and make recommendations about a similar ban in that country.
Johnson’s announcement got a tepid reception from Rebecca Newsom, the head of politics for Greenpeace UK, who said Johnson needs to take more far ranging action on all aspects of carbon emission reduction instead of focusing only on transportation. “We need a complete rethink of the way we power our economy, build homes, move around and grow our food,” she told Reuters.
Any ban on gasoline and diesel powered cars could have a serious impact on the German auto industry. At the present time, 20% of all German-made cars are exported to the UK. Volkswagen is taking aggressive action to electrify its model lineup but the other Teutonic companies are lagging behind at the moment. Stricter auto emissions rules in the EU will continue to ratchet up, however. By 2035, the EV revolution should be nearly complete — except in the US where auto emission standards are reverting to those in place 20 years ago.
The focus by Johnson on climate change could put him at odds with his counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic and make trade negotiations between the UK and the US very tricky indeed.