UK’s ban on new petrol, diesel cars from 2030 to benefit economy, says environmental expert

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in Britain by five years to 2030, a move seen as part of a “green industrial revolution” to tackle climate change and create jobs.

Johnson said in February that Britain was to put an end to the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Policy Director of the non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace UK, Doug Parr, whose focus is on climate policy, energy and transport, listed a number of benefits that Britain could feel from an earlier phase-out.

“Obviously, the big one is going to be that we can meet our legally binding carbon budgets for 2030,” Parr said.

“The second benefit will be that we hope to achieve a lead industrially across Western Europe. But what our research has shown is that there’s a direct economic benefit as well,” Parr added.

Although some jobs will be lost when the phase-out takes place, there will be other jobs gained in manufacturing and supply chain and electrical installation, said Parr.

The research found that the ban could create 32,000 new jobs by the same year and increase gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.2 percent, or 4.2 billion pounds (about 5.6 billion U.S. dollars).

The proposed ban is part of the 10-point plan announced by Johnson on Wednesday in a bid to tackle climate change and create jobs in industries such as nuclear energy.

DIFFICULTIES OF ELECTRIC CARS

Despite the potential economic benefits of introducing the ban, Parr admitted that the current infrastructure in place for those who have electric cars does need to be improved.

Currently, electric charging stations and infrastructure are too difficult to find for everyday drivers.

“The chief hurdles are going to be persuading people that these electric vehicles are the right choice for them in considerable numbers. That is deliverable, by changing the tax system to shift the cost of ownership, so that electric vehicles look more attractive,” said Parr.

“Ultimately, because we expect battery prices to come down and vehicle prices to come down, they’ll be cheaper to buy to begin with,” Parr said.

He said that he believes that drivers will opt to go greener when the policies and infrastructure are in place.

A GREENER UK?

There are still critics of Johnson’s 10-point plan for the “green industrial revolution”, saying that the fund allocated to implement the 10-point plan is far too small for the scale of the challenge.

However, Parr’s organisation thought that this at least shows a step in the right direction.

“What’s been good about this government is that they are quite clear that they want green issues to be a part of the core program of government,” Parr said.

“Our challenge with this government is now not simply about the overall ambition, but about delivery of some reasonably good targets, for example, on offshore wind, and about mechanisms of getting to the emissions cuts that we need to see,” he said.

According to Parr, his organisation believes that this is the moment to be going for the “truly zero emission technologies”, with a massive expansion of renewables, green hydrogen that can help convert the electricity system to run electric vehicles and heat buildings.

“That way, we hope we can get to where we need to be, but we are not convinced that the government necessarily shares the vision about how we should get there, but they do, and this is important, share the ambition about the overall ambition to get green issues up the agenda and to cut carbon emissions quickly,” he said.

Green energy is expected to be high on the agenda in the international community in 2021, when China will host the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) and Britain will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).