The UK will ban the sale of gas-guzzling cars and vans from 2040

Endangered exhaust.
Endangered exhaust.
Image: EPA/Oliver Weiken
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The UK just became the newest member of the “ban all petrol cars” club, along with NorwayFrancethe Netherlands, and India. The British government has announced that sales of all petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2040. The pledge was in response to pressure to show it is serious about cutting levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is linked to more than 20,000 deaths annually.

However, there are few details about how the policy will be implemented. Anti-pollution campaigners wanted more immediate regulations, such as clean-air zones that would levy charges on the most polluting vehicles. The government’s own figures suggest that poor air quality costs £2.7 billion ($3.5 billion) in lost productivity each year.

The announcement comes in response to a July 31 deadline set by the country’s highest court that mandates the government publish its plans to cut air pollution. Apart from a ban on gas-guzzling vehicle sales, the government will provide as much as £3 billion towards other initiatives to tackle air pollution:

  • £1.2 billion to encourage cycling and walking
  • £1 billion to encourage people to buy electric vehicles
  • £290 million to retrofit taxis to reduce emissions
  • £255 million to local authorities to implement policies each one sees fit to tackle air pollution
  • £100 million to improve UK’s infrastructure to charge electric vehicles

France recently made a similar move to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars, as part of commitments made as a member of the Paris climate agreement to reduce emissions. Though the British government didn’t mention the climate accord in its announcement, the ban (if implemented) will also serve to reduce a large share of the country’s emissions.

The boss of one of Britain’s most storied car companies, Aston Martin, fretted to the Financial Times (paywall) about the effect the ban will have on the luxury auto industry in the UK, which features Bentley, McLaren, and Rolls-Royce in addition to Aston Martin.  

“If we want to be at the cutting edge then we have to make sure we are world leaders in electric vehicles,” Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, said. “If the government is going to legislate then they have to assist as well, otherwise they will destroy part of the industry.”