Early ban on diesel cars could ‘halve’ UK oil imports by 2035

Diesel engines are one of the main sources of toxic nitrogen dioxide
Diesel engines are one of the main sources of toxic nitrogen dioxide
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Ministers are being urged to adopt a more ambitious target to phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars after a new study by environmental and aid organisations found it could halve UK oil imports in less than two decades.

The Government has announced plans to ban the sale of conventional combustion engine cars and vans by 2040 as part of its efforts to tackle air pollution and climate change.

The groups have welcomed this as a step in the right direction, but claim bringing the deadline forward 10 years could reduce UK foreign oil imports by 51 percent in 2035 compared to current projections. This is in addition to cutting pollution and boosting investment in UK transport infrastructure such as charging points for electric cars.

The report by Green Alliance and supported by Cafod, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, comes ahead of the Government’s publication of the clean growth plan, which will outline how the UK will cut carbon emissions to meet legal targets.

Ministers have signalled the delayed plan will be published after Parliament’s summer recess, and the aim is for it to be “as ambitious, robust and clear a blueprint as it can be”.

The petrol and diesel ban was announced in July as part of the Government’s wider air quality plan to tackle illegal levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions.

This identified a host of UK cities as NO2 hotspots – including Leeds and Sheffield – many of which could see the introduction of charges and access restrictions on the most heavily polluted roads.

In 2016, transport accounted for 40 percent of the UK’s total energy consumption, with road transport accounting for three-quarters of this. But other countries such as Norway and India are ahead of the UK in their ambitions to switch to electric vehicles, the new study said.

Along with a tougher target to make the move to zero emission vehicles, the study calls for additional funding for renewables between 2020 and 2025, bringing in zero-carbon standards for new homes and building energy efficiency improvements.

Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF, said the UK could and must go faster than the 2040 goal. “To ensure the UK doesn’t miss out on the jobs and investment opportunity in clean, modern vehicles, the UK should up its ambition,” he said.

“Cleaning up transport and boosting home energy efficiency must be priorities for the UK government in the forthcoming clean growth plan. Both measures will create jobs for UK businesses and reduce costs to the NHS caused by noxious air pollution and cold, leaky homes.”

Laura Taylor, head of advocacy at Christian Aid, said: “The UK government’s long-overdue clean growth plan needs to prove that this government is serious about speeding up the low carbon transition, not slackening the pace.

“The benefits to citizens are enormous but areas like home energy efficiency and heating are lagging behind and need urgent political attention.”