Boris Johnson will confirm plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2035 or earlier, including banning the sale of new hybrids for the first time.
The prime minister was due to make the announcement on Tuesday (4 February) at an event in central London to launch the next UN climate conference COP26, which takes place in Glasgow in November.
An electric vehicle with conventional cars
The event could be overshadowed by criticism from former rail minister Claire O’Neill (previously Perry), who was sacked last week as President of COP26 and was previously best known for admitting that she was ‘ashamed’ to be rail minister.
At the time, Ms O'Neill made a spirited defence of her track record and suitability for the job - she claimed she was the victim of a whispering campaign from Number 10, which had its own agenda regardless of her proven good work.
In a recent letter to Mr Johnson, Ms O’Neill said that the UK has ‘a great agenda’ on climate change, adding: ‘But we are miles off track.’
She wrote: ‘When you asked me to be your COP President (and to combine it with remaining in your Cabinet as a Minister, an offer I declined) you promised to “lead from the front” and asked me what was needed “money, people, just tell us!” Sadly, these promises and offers are not close to being met.’
Officials said Mr Johnson’s announcement that the Government would consult on ending the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans in 15 years’ time ‘demonstrates the UK’s urgent action to reduce emissions’.
However, the only new element of the announcement is the inclusion of hybrid vehicles. The Conservative Manifesto pledged to introduce a consultation on bringing the ban forward and transport secretary Grant Shapps has said he favoured 2035.
The ban could be brought in even earlier ‘if a faster transition is feasible, subject to consultation’.
Officials said the Government will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the roll-out of zero emission vehicles.
Mr Shapps said: ‘This Government’s £1.5bn strategy to make owning an electric vehicle as easy as possible is working - last year alone, a fully electric car was sold every 15 minutes.
‘We want to go further than ever before. That’s why we are bringing forward our already ambitious target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.’
AA president Edmund King said: ‘Drivers support measures to clean up air quality and reduce CO2 emissions but these stretched targets are incredibly challenging. We must question whether we will have a sufficient supply of a full cross section of zero emissions vehicles in less than 15 years.
‘We will also need a package of grants coupled with a comprehensive charging infrastructure at homes and in towns, cities, motorways and rural locations. At the very least the Government should take up the AA demand to cut VAT on new EVs to boost sales and make vehicles more affordable to those on lower incomes.’
Mr King added: 'Manufacturers are also spending billions on developing state of the art hybrids which are zero emissions for many journeys but these will also be excluded from sale. This seems a very backward step that could backfire by encouraging drivers to hold onto older more polluting vehicles for longer.'