The UK Plans to Ban the Sale of Gas and Hybrid Cars by 2035

Hasta la vista, cars.
Hasta la vista, cars.
Photo: Getty

The UK is going hard in its game to ban cars. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the launch of talks related to COP26, the next chapter of international climate talks, that his government would accelerate its ban on the sale of gas- and diesel-run vehicles from 2040 to 2035. Leaders are even adding hybrids to the mix for the first time.

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The war on gas guzzling cars is a key part of stopping climate change, particularly in countries like the UK. Why? The transport sector makes up 33 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions there, making it the largest chunk of the nation’s emissions. So it makes complete sense for the government to tackle cars if it wants to help avert catastrophic climate change.

And the UK isn’t alone. Spain is trying to accomplish the same thing by 2040. Costa Rica wants to ban all fossil fuels by next year. Los Angeles isn’t trying to ban cars outright (yet!), but the city has set forth a dramatic plan to transform its public transit system, as well as make all cars on the road electric by 2050.

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As much as we all love our personal vehicles, the gas-guzzling types are not in line with what the world needs if we are to avoid a scary, hot-ass future. But removing cars from the road isn’t all that we need to do. Leaders need to invest in effective public transit systems, bike lanes, and other forms of transit that can replace cars. Or even giving people more flexibility in their own lives to, say, work from home. Those things won’t just help the climate, it’ll reduce chaotic traffic and air pollution. That’s why electric vehicles are just a piece of the solution.

As for the UK, the country appears to be taking this climate crisis thing seriously. It was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, and 2019 saw a surge in renewable energy across the country. Even with a conservative government in power, the country appears to be taking a pretty serious approach to climate change (with a few exceptions). The accelerating gas-powered car ban is another step in the right direction.

I don’t own a car, and I’m all about trains (and motorcycles!). Ban cars, baby. Ban ‘em.

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Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

cmallen
C.M. Allen

It should be pointed out that there is nothing inherently wrong with emitting CO2 itself (particularly for efforts for which good substitutes do not exist). As such, the objective should not necessarily be to stop emitting CO2 but for the amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere to be zero or less. Now, yes, reducing or eliminating C02 emissions is certainly an easy (kind of, sort of) way to achieve that objective, but so is extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, which has the not-insignificant advantage of not requiring rapid and dramatic changes in our global infrastructure. Even if humanity still emits 10m GtC per year, as long as we recaptures at least 10m GtC each year too, we’ve still reached the end goal of being carbon neutral.

The point is, we need to be hitting this problem from more than one direction. Massive upsets like completely weening ourselves off non-renewable fuels is not something to be approached lightly or something we’re likely to succeed at doing on the kinds of timescales we have to work with. But reducing our usage (or being more efficient with it) while greatly accelerating the rate at which C02 gets removed from the atmosphere, that’s a different story. If you’ll excuse the phrase, that’s burning the candle at both ends. We can double our efforts to solve our climate change problems.

Just as equally important, carbon capture and sequestration is infrastructure we will have to build regardless. It’s not good enough for us to simply reach carbon neutrality. We need to start undoing all the damage that’s already been done (at least as much as can be...extinct species and collapsed ecosystems are a different matter). The only way that’s going to happen is if we, you guessed it, start sucking all our past and present CO2 emissions back out of the atmosphere for good.