UK: Prime Minister Sunak postpones ICE phase-out
In his anticipated speech on climate change targets, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Tories) reversed or toned down some measures taken by previous governments. In Sunak’s view, the UK’s “over-delivery on reducing emissions provides space to take a more pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic approach to reaching net zero, while maintaining all our international commitments.”
As reported, the prime minister has scrapped the measure (initially decided in 2020) to stop allowing new vehicles with internal combustion engines from 2030. This measure will now take effect in 2035 – as was intended before Johnson changed the plan.
Sunak justifies the new regulation on the combustion engine phase-out and other measures – around the installation of energy-saving heating systems, for example – with the currently still high costs for families and small businesses. “I also think that at least for now, it should be you the consumer that makes that choice, not government forcing you to do it. Because the upfront cost is still high – especially for families struggling with the cost of living. Small businesses are worried about the practicalities,” the PM said in his speech.
Sunak expects many EVs by 2030
However, Sunak believes in the success of electric mobility. “I expect that by 2030, the vast majority of cars sold will be electric,” he said. “Why? Because the costs are reducing; the range is improving; the charging infrastructure is growing. People are already choosing electric vehicles to such an extent that we’re registering a new one every 60 seconds.”
He also noted that the country has “got further to go to get that charging infrastructure truly nationwide” before phasing out the internal combustion engine. Also, the country’s car industry must be strengthened “so we aren’t reliant on heavily subsidised, carbon intensive imports from countries like China. So to give us more time to prepare.” The target was postponed to 2035. However, Sunak did not announce concrete support measures or other programmes to reduce the obstacles he cited.
Even before his speech on Wednesday evening, Sunak was confronted with criticism – not only from the opposing Labour Party, but also from his own ranks. The car industry – specifically Ford UK and the SMMT trade association – also spoke out against another postponement to 2035. Ford accused Sunak of disregarding the needs of the industry. “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency,” said Ford UK chair Lisa Brankin. The association noted that confusion and uncertainty will lead to consumer reluctance.
In his speech, Sunak not only mentioned his goals, but also the some policies that he rules out. These include “compulsory car sharing if you drive to work, taxes on eating meat, new taxes on flying,” or “a government diktat to sort your rubbish into seven different bins.”