The government must seize the ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ underlined by the coronavirus pandemic to fast track plans to drive down emissions, including bringing forward the 2035 ban on the sale of petrols, diesels and hybrids.
That’s the view from the government’s advisors on the Committee on Climate Change. In its annual report to parliament, it has warned the UK is not making the progress it needs to drive down emissions and prepare for the impacts of rising temperatures.
The committee is calling for ‘green stimulus’ measures including upgrades to homes so they are more energy efficient, schemes to make it easier for people to cycle and walk, tree planting, investing in clean technology like heat pumps and changing the 2035 petrol and diesel car ban.
Banning the sale of petrol and diesel engined cars was originally slated for 2040, but was brought forward to 2035 earlier this year.
Controversially the 2035 ban includes hybrids.
But now the committee is calling for that date to be brought forward again, this time to 2032.
Government advisers have said recovering from the economic shock of coronavirus and at the same time accelerating moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 is ‘absolutely necessary and entirely possible’.
And to help protect the UK from climate impacts, the £5.2bn earmarked for flood defences over five years should be brought forward for schemes that are ready to go.
The committee’s chairman, Lord Deben, said: ‘The UK is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation. Meanwhile, the global crisis of climate change is accelerating.
‘We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking.’
He said a green recovery was the only way out of the ‘terrible’ situation of Covid-19 and the economic crisis, that would create resilience, jobs and prosperity – but the ‘window of opportunity is closing already’.
‘What is now happening is a real opportunity to make a change which will be remembered forever as the great leap forward, which really could be done, but it is now, it isn’t tomorrow,’ he said.
The government is also urged to encourage the public to stick with positive behaviours such as walking and cycling, and to invest in science and innovation in technology to help tackle climate change.
The report also calls for any bailouts of polluting industry to have ‘green strings’ attached and for taxes to be used to drive emissions reductions – for example increases on fuel duty – with the potential for carbon taxes able to raise £15bn a year over the next decade.
A government spokesman said: ‘We agree with the committee that tackling climate change should be at the heart of our economic recovery.’
The committee’s report comes in the same week where Ford called for a long-term strategy from the government to support manufacturers achieve zero emissions vehicles sales targets in the 2030s.
Speaking at the SMMT’s International Automotive Summit Live 2020, Ford of Britain chairman, Graham Hoare, said the automotive industry needed a clear and consistent plan that includes incentives to get customers to buy new cars fitted with the latest technologies.
‘A successful future for the auto industry is dependent on achieving our longer-term objective of a zero emissions future – that is definitely the path we are on at Ford,’ said Hoare.
‘However, we should be under no illusion that reaching this goal will require an unparalleled level of commitment and cooperation by a range of different stakeholders – government departments, local authorities, the auto industry, energy providers, and customers.
‘We need government to partner with us and have joint equity in formulating and delivering a comprehensive and consistent strategy that encompasses all stakeholders and that provides a path to the future – a path that also encompasses a range of technologies, including mild hybrids, hybrids and plug-in hybrids on the route to zero emissions.’
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