The prime minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, has decided to delay the country’s ban of new petrol (gasoline) and diesel cars by five years.
His decision to postpone one of the government’s previously agreed climate commitments to 2035 has been met with criticism from the international community and even members of his own political party, the Guardian reports.
In an announcement tagged with the words “long-term decisions for a brighter future,” Sunak revealed the plan is intended to save families throughout the country money by delaying the uptake of greener technologies, reports the Guardian.
However, critics have said the approach of delaying the ban on the manufacturing of dirty-fuel-powered cars will do anything but.
Professor of climatology at University College London Mark Maslin said the suggestion that the policy would ease the burden on public finances was not a valid argument, noting individuals do not “have to pay for the net zero transition.”
“He seems to forget government is there to enable major infrastructure changes and the switch to renewable energy, electric cars, and heat exchangers should be supported because all of them in the long run save people money and improve people’s health,” Maslin told the Guardian.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was once a member of parliament for Sunak’s Conservative party, said Sunak “cannot afford to falter now” on green policies, noting it will drive up prices for customers.
Meanwhile, former vice president of the United States and climate activist Al Gore simply said Sunak is “doing the wrong thing.”
When giving the Guardian his reaction to the announcement, UK citizen Simon Hedges said: “It’s disgusting. We need more electric chargers in the rural area in which I live (my village has none), but this announcement will remove the deadline pressure meaning slower provision.
“The announcement will probably mean my next car is not electric. I live in a small village that has no chargers, and I cannot fit my own charger because I am in a flat.”
Why is this so concerning?
While the announcement is an immediate blow to the UK’s efforts to move to a more sustainable future and to comply with worldwide climate targets, it’s also worrying because Sunak failed to detail what his approach would be toward achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, reports the Guardian.
In addition to postponing the electric cars policy, Sunak also announced the phasing out of gas-powered boilers and requirements for landlords to provide energy-efficient properties for tenants would both be canceled.
According to the government’s own data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, pollution from domestic transportation rose 10% in 2021, with over 200 billion pounds (107.5 million tonnes) of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
While it’s noted that emissions are 14% lower than they were in 1990, that’s still far too much planet-warming pollution being produced. Not only does carbon dioxide encourage warmer temperatures and thus the threat of extreme weather events, but it also hugely impacts air quality, which increases the risk of respiratory diseases and some forms of cancer.
What can be done to prevent carbon dioxide pollution?
While Sunak’s delay will damage the UK’s path toward a greener transportation sector, that doesn’t mean it has to stop the country’s residents from moving away from internal-combustion-engine cars.
According to ZapMap, using data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, there were around 900,000 electric cars on the UK’s roads by the end of September 2023. Furthermore, 17% of all UK new car registrations in September were electric vehicles.
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