Comment: Electric cars – could do better

31 August 2017, Comments Comments Off on Comment: Electric cars – could do better

The UK Government has agreed to steadily phase out diesel and petrol cars. By 2040 all new cars will be electric – or run from alternative energy sources. Surely that’s good news?


Yes. It’s good news that eventually zero-emission cars will make an important contribution to the historic task of cutting UK PLC’s carbon emissions. In time, this will also help deal with the acute problem of urban air pollution.

But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – the pace of change is puzzling. Many green economists are arguing that change could and should come much faster. We’re on track for at least a 2C rise in temperatures by 2080 – possibly more. Considering, too, that urban air pollution currently causes around 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, one would have thought that public health alone, let alone climate change, would drive much faster progress.

We must also see the carbon-cutting and health-enhancing value of phasing out fossil-fuelled cars in the context of other plans affecting the environment. There are big concerns about green spaces and road building, for example. We might reduce carbon in vehicles, while continuing to cover our countryside in concrete. Then carbon reductions in the car sector will be neutralised by huge scale development.


In the meantime, any new roads built before our fleet eventually goes electric, inevitably encourage more polluting vehicles onto our roads. The UK needs much more coherent carbon-cutting and pollution-reducing policies.

We welcome the changes to future car production. But we also want to encourage the Government to drive much speedier implementation both to reduce urban air pollution – and to cut the UK’s carbon emissions from road transport.

Express your concerns to your MP. Find out your local elected representative here. (Pictured is heavy traffic heading towards York. Photo by Sam Kelly)

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