A new report issued by the UK advisory Committee on Climate Change says that if the UK is to reach a goal of zero net emissions by 2050, it must consider moving its current target of 100% new electric vehicle sales by 2040 forward by up to a decade.
The report, which was published overnight (Australian time), recommends that the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments seriously consider an earlier date for its 100% target.
Critics of the current 2040 target have argued that banning sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles would still leave many such vehicles on the road in 2050, putting the the goal of reaching zero net emissions at risk.
The recommendations highlight the degree of urgency needed for effective policy to mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as the comparatively timid policies being proposed in Australia.
While Australia’s current federal opposition party, Labor, has put forward a proposal for 50% electric car sales by 2030.
It has been met with criticism from the Coalition, who want no such target even though it is implicit in their own emissions reduction plans, and by the Australian Greens, which proposes a 100% new electric car sales target by 2030, along with motorist’s association NRMA.
While it is likely that in a zero net emissions future the UK would still have to offset some sources of greenhouse gases, the report notes that as a transport is a key source of carbon emissions, it must be addressed adequately.
The report states:
By 2035 at the latest all new cars and vans should be electric (or use a low-carbon alternative such as hydrogen). If possible, an earlier switchover (e.g. 2030) would be desirable, reducing costs for motorists and improving air quality.
For Scotland, a date of 2032 is recommended, and is backed by insurance group LV.
LV told the BBC that, “The UK is in a fortunate position in that motor manufacturers have already matched demand with a production line stacked with electric car and plug-in hybrid models, as the clamour from consumers’ changes to cleaner motoring.”
The report adds that a strong stance on electric vehicle targets could also help place the UK as a player in the rapidly growing electric vehicle market.
Price parity for electric vehicles is expected to be achieved by 2022 in the UK, making them as affordable as combustion engine cars, according to a report from market analysis firm Deloitte earlier this year.
While price parity will help ensure an earlier target is achievable, the committee did express concern that the demand for cobalt to produce enough batteries could outweigh supply.
The report also notes that adequate access to charging infrastructure must also be improved (an issue that was highlighted in a previous 46-point plan issued by the UK Department of Transport last year):
The Government must continue to support strengthening of the charging infrastructure, including for drivers without access to off-street parking.
However chair of the Environmental Audit Committee MP Mary Creagh, told the BBC that, “Ministers are useless. They seem to think the market will miraculous provide charging points and the government has no job to regulate charging points.”
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said in a statement that, “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response.
“The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted.
“The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”
Several other countries have set in place a 100% by 2030 electric vehicle sales target, effectively banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles completely, including Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Israel and the Netherlands.
Electric car market leader Norway as an even more ambitious target of 100% electric vehicle sales by 2025 – just six years away. Already, more than half its new vehicle sales are electric.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.