The U.K., planning to host a global climate summit in November, said it is banning the sale of new fossil fuel–burning cars five years earlier than planned as fears grow that not enough is being done to stop rising temperatures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the 2035 ban on new gasoline, diesel and hybrid cars this week at an event for the Glasgow U.N. Climate Change Conference, which is scheduled for November. The COP26 summit is seen as a pivotal moment for the 2015 Paris Agreement to climate change, with Britain being left with the unenviable task of trying to persuade big-polluting countries to make binding carbon-emission cuts.
“We have to deal with our CO2 emissions, and that is why the U.K. 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,” Johnson said at a launch event at London’s Science Museum.
Last year’s climate talks, which were held in Madrid, were widely panned after they ended with a weak statement calling for greater efforts to tackle greenhouse emissions. Hopes were high going into those talks that the delegates would agree on binding emissions targets and rules of an international carbon market.
If Britain’s policy is widely copied, oil producers would take a hit that may lead to a transformation of the automobile industry. Countries and cities around the world have already started to crack down on diesel vehicles as a result of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Johnson’s announcement came after he was attacked by the summit’s former head, Clare O’Neill, who was fired last week. The former energy minister denounced the prime minister for a lack of leadership and said he told her that he didn’t understand climate change.
“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’s in the bank,” O’Neill said on BBC Radio 4.
- U.K. automakers denounced the decision and said that the country was unlikely to meet the goal. The industry already is under pressure because of Brexit, which helped send British car production to the lowest level in a decade, and with the uncertainty that comes from the lack of a European Union trade accord.
- Scotland announced its own targets that are tougher than those of the U.K. as a whole. The Scottish government says its policies are “the toughest anywhere in the world” after setting a legally binding target of net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045.