France will aim for carbon neutrality by 2050—with the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles banned by 2040. Where's the UK's ambition?by Gareth Redmond-King / July 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
Barely two months into his presidency, French president Emmanuel Macron continues to throw down the gauntlet on tackling climate change. Having banned new oil and gas exploration, his government has now set 2050 as the year by which France will be carbon neutral. This is genuine ambition, announced as 19 world leaders lined up against Donald Trump and his increasingly ridiculous-looking decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. France’s plan, in tone, as much as content, looks like leadership—to “make our planet great again!”
The overall ambition isn’t what made the headlines here. Rather it was the promise to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. To UK ears, that sounds a big deal. Despite burgeoning air quality problems and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles rising, the UK government has so far been unable to get to grips with transport emissions, and unwilling to take radical action on vehicle pollution. Ending the internal combustion engine era in just two decades might sound, therefore, quite the leap. But is it actually that challenging?
India has made a similar commitment by 2030—a full decade earlier; the Netherlands and Norway by 2025. France has around 18 times the motor vehicles per capita of India although India almost certainly has more vehicles than France, in real terms. Netherlands and Norway are much smaller, albeit with similar per capita levels to the French; but with 7 per cent and 29 per cent market share for electric vehicles (including hybrids) respectively, they’re starting from higher bases than France’s 1.5 per cent.
What of the UK? Well, we’ve signed up to an international grouping called the International Zero Emissions Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance), along with Germany (1m electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads by 2020), Norway, the Netherlands and several Canadian and US states—including California & New York. Although that involves only a fairly vague commitment to phasing out non-electric vehicles by 2050, the government has made stronger noises recently.
The UK Industrial Strategy references EVs in relation to smart power grids as well as the role of the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV)—a government body which, among other things, is supporting cities around the UK to test out infrastructure changes to encourage the transition from fossil fuel vehicles.
The Queen’s Speech, otherwise fairly light on non-brexit legislation, included an “automated and…