Europe is stepping up its commitments on clean transport. We need to do the same.

As Elon Musk orders the first diggers into Germany to build his first European gigafactory, many British shoulders slumped in, if not shame, resigned disappointment. It seemed inevitable that the ‘home of the car’ would be welcoming gleaming Tesla Model S, X, Y and 3s off the production line, and whatever other model named after a random keyboard punch Elon designs in the future. That’s not too much of a bad thing globally. Germany emits more CO2 than the UK and France combined, and with the largest car market on the continent, it would be no bad thing for the country to switch over quickly to cleaner transport. The ‘er’ signifies the fact that the UK will phase out its coal plants to power these new vehicles in six years at the latest, as opposed to Germany’s nineteen, but that’s another story. Germany isn’t alone in this, in fact, the EU as a whole is starting to take a much stronger interest in decarbonising transport than previously.

 

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With a new Tesla gigafactory there, Germany can expect more of its car parks to look like this in the future.

From 2021, the EU will introduce new rules on automotive maker’s rules, stating that the average emissions of CO2 per vehicle sold from companies must be 95g per km, or large fines will loom. The easiest way of avoiding these for car companies are to build a certain number of electric vehicles to balance out their sales, hence there are a large number of manufacturers unveiling new electric models prior to 2021. But EU rules don’t specify any particular countries this need apply to, and the expectations is that sales will be higher in the more affluent car markets of France, Germany and other Western European countries. The result is that once the UK leaves the EU single market, there will be no requirements for car manufactures to do the same for the UK, and could likely to prioritise investing in the car markets of other countries.

 

Therefore, the UK while outside of the EU needs to maintain a competitive edge and showcase that there will be a large demand for electric vehicles in the UK market. No other market of a comparative size has a 2030 ban on conventional vehicles, which would go some way to making the UK among the most electric vehicle hungry countries in the world. The only EU countries with an earlier phase out date are the smaller markets of the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Ireland, with non-EU countries such as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland also in this group. This ban would not be sufficient on its own – EU regulations are progressively implementing stricter emissions targets from 2021, so there would still be more immediate incentives for auto manufacturers. But this would send a strong signal to markets that the UK is committed to a total shift away from petrol and diesel vehicles. Additionally, the 2030 ban could be the start of a wider range of measures to phase out conventional vehicles, with the 2030 ban representing an end date and similar additional targets for auto manufacturers in intervening years to shape the direction of travel.

The future of the UK’s car industry will be shaped enormously by the wider decisions made in the politics surrounding Brexit. But the UK can and must still take action in areas in which it can control, whether our driver of 2030 is buying a German made Tesla or a British made electric Mini. The UK has a history of lagging behind in the car industry, but equally, a history of being far ahead of its European neighbours in new low emission technologies. Britain does have some disadvantages in the car industry, but there’s no reason why its policy on the type of vehicles on sale in the country have to match. Not only can the UK match the EU’s ambition on electric vehicles, there is no reason why it should not overtake it. A 2030 ban in the EU is unlikely due to having to pass through the decision making process of many more countries, and no such policy is outlined in the EU’s Green New Deal. The UK has the right political atmosphere to make a 2030 phase-out work, especially as the current government has pledged to review it, and there is no reason why interim targets cannot be more stringent than our European neighbours.

 

 

 

December update: Merry Election!

Christmas may not be turning out quite a relaxed as many of us expected to be. However, with an election underway, it gives a good opportunity to take stock of where political parties are when it coming to phasing out polluting cars and vans. Particularly as we’ve just had the first of hopefully many more climate debates!

The Conservatives: The party have pledged to review the current 2040 mission to phase out conventional vehicles, but don’t declare an official position. At the Conservative Party Conference of 2019, then transport secretary Grant Shapps stated that he would ask the cabinet for a 2035 phase out. The party also wants to invest £1bn in Signpost, political partiesrapid charging infrastructure, and have at least one gigafactory in the UK.

Labour: Labour do support our goal, but the wording of the manifesto states they will aim for a 2030 ban, as opposed to a more stringent statement from other parties. Their manifesto also states a wide and detailed range of further incentives for electric vehicles to make up two thirds of the light vehicle fleet by 2030. Labour also commits to funding new charging infrastructure, and having three new gigafactories in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats: Their manifesto says that the party will ensure conventional cars and vans will face a ban by 2030. They also outline a range of further incentives for EVs between now and 2030, which include cutting VAT and tax reform to make electric vehicles cheaper.

The Brexit Party: No policy.

The Green Party: The Green Party fully support a ban on conventional cars and vans by 2030. Their manifesto aims to provide incentives for electric vans, coaches and lorries, and prioritises reducing car usage more than other parties.

The Scottish National Party: The SNP advocate the whole of the UK to follow Scotland’s 2032 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles. It also supports further incentives such as tax incentives and loans.

Plaid Cymru: The party supports phasing out conventional cars by 2030. This does not include vans, and it is unclear whether phasing out means a ban on or simply a majority of cars to be electric by 2030.

(Note that no party distinguishes defines what ‘conventional’ vehicles mean, allowing for future hybrid variants of vehicles that go against our campaign goals and will lead to higher emissions and make it harder to get to net zero).

So that does this all mean for DecarboniseNow? Whichever party comes into power, we are still determined to follow through on our campaign goals. Our starting point will however be different depending on the manifesto commitments above. Securing a binding ban will be our priority for parties that do not have this in their manifestos, and for parties that already have one, assisting them in implementing and designing this will be our main priority, including phasing out hybrid vehicles. Either way, we are determined that the next government will be signing up to one of the most ambitious transport decarbonisation policies anywhere in the world, and take an enormous leap forward in ending our contribution to climate change.

In the next month, we’ll continue to build up a coalition of allies who support our goal, reaching out to relevant industries. We’ll also be in touch with the new government and transport minister to set out our goal for their new government. We’re also aiming to build a wider media campaign in the New Year – keep an ear to the ground for more! We hope you enjoy Christmas and we will see you in 2020.

New campaign launched!

DecarboniseNow is pleased to announce today we have a new campaign to focus on. By 2030 or earlier, we want to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars and vans across the UK, ushering in an electric vehicle revolution. We’re revamped the website a fair bit too. Click on the ‘Campaigns’ tab to find out more, and how you can get involved. Any questions? Well we’ve also got a new feedback form on the ‘Talk to Us’ tab – drop us a line! In the meantime, we look forward to more adventures in the future to Decarbonise the UK Now.