Controversy as UK Delays Ban on Petrol and Diesel Cars: GMPB

Covered in this week’s Green Mobility Policy Briefing: UK delays ban on ICE cars, France to move forward with flight price floor plans, The EU risks depending on China for batteries after quitting Russian energy, and HS2: UK Government Refuses to Guarantee Manchester Link.

UK delays ban on ICE cars – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tempered Britain’s climate change efforts, postponing the ban on new petrol car sales. He justified this delay by stating that it was necessary to maintain public support for the transition to net zero emissions. Although he reaffirmed the commitment to the 2050 net zero target, Sunak argued that Britain’s already advanced position allowed for a more gradual approach. To alleviate the “unacceptable costs” on households during the energy transition, he has pushed back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 from 2030 and announced that second-hand internal combustion engine cars would still be transferable after 2035. With regards to housing, Sunak announced a smoother adoption of heat pumps over gas boilers in homes and pledged not to mandate insulation improvements for households. The Prime Minister’s announcement, and the rumours around it, have not gone well with industry. Lisa Brankin, Chair & Managing Director at Ford UK noted that her businesses needed “ambition, commitment and consistency” from the UK government and said that the relaxation of the 2030 target would undermine that. Brankin’s statements were echoed by Mike Hawes, the Chief Executive of The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), who said carmakers needed the government to offer a “clear, consistent message, attractive incentives and charging infrastructure that gives confidence rather than anxiety.” Andy Meyer, an Energy analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs had a different view, stating that “Sunak’s Net Zero rebalance is a welcome step. Government policies like petrol and diesel car and gas boiler bans, have gone too far in hurting families and businesses for minimal environmental gain.” Sunak’s announcement comes just days after former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss called for the delay to the 2030 ICE car ban during a speech at the Institute for Government think tank.

France to move forward with flight price floor plans – France plans to propose a minimum price for flights within Europe to combat climate change in the aviation sector. Transport Minister Clement Beaune first hinted at these measures two weeks ago, but now intends to seek support from other European Union nations for this initiative. France’s objective is to initiate a discussion on establishing a fair social and environmental cost for flight tickets, with Beaune emphasizing that it doesn’t mean drastically increasing ticket prices. It should be noted that the EU already has some indirect measures aimed at internalising the environmental costs of flying, such as the ETS, a scheme which some airlines fear will negatively impact their commercial viability.  

The EU risks depending on China for batteries after quitting Russian energy. A leaked paper for EU leaders warns that by 2030, the EU could be as reliant on China for lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells as it once was on Russia for energy. Due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, Europe must, according to the document, find ways to store energy to achieve its 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal. This will significantly increase the demand for lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells, and electrolysers, expected to grow by 10 to 30 times in the coming years. The issue of reliance will be discussed during a meeting of EU leaders in Granada, Spain on October 5th. Concerned about China’s global assertiveness and economic influence, leaders will consider the European Commission’s proposals to reduce dependence on China and diversify towards Africa and Latin America.

HS2: UK Government Refuses to Guarantee Manchester Link. The UK government has declined to guarantee the future of the HS2 rail line between Birmingham and Manchester, citing concerns over rising costs and delays. Downing Street emphasized the need to balance passenger and taxpayer interests. While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt discussed the project, commitment to the Manchester line remains uncertain. There are indications of a possible delay (‘rephasing’) in the project. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham expressed concerns about regional disparities, and HS2 has been a symbol of the government’s levelling-up agenda. Rising costs have pushed back the London Euston station and Birmingham-Crewe section by two years. The project’s costs have far exceeded the original £33bn budget set a decade ago. Plans for the eastern leg to Leeds were scaled back two years ago. Scrapping phase two is criticized as a ‘disaster’ and ‘betrayal’ for the North and Midlands, with potential economic repercussions and concerns for inward investors.

Downing Street. Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)