Boris Johnson’s green plan brings ban on petrol cars forward to 2030 and promises UK’s first hydrogen-powered town

Environmentalists welcome ‘landmark’ move on polluting vehicles, but say more ambition needed

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 18 November 2020 09:21 GMT
Ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles brought forward to 2030

Boris Johnson has set out plans for green investment over the coming decade, including a target to generate enough offshore wind to power every home in the UK and a ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030.

The prime minister’s long-awaited 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution” also promised the UK’s first hydrogen-powered town, four carbon capture “clusters” to suck 10 megatons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and a new generation of advanced nuclear reactors.

But green campaigners warned that the £12bn in public funding promised by Mr Johnson fell well short of the scale of ambition needed, while there was dismay at his inclusion of “pie-in-the-sky” plans for zero-emission jet planes.

Follow live: Boris Johnson’s green plan labelled ‘inadequate’ 

The decision to bring forward by five years the phase-out date for polluting cars and vans – with new hybrids granted a stay of execution until 2035 – is designed to kick-start the electric vehicle (EV) market, which despite recent growth still accounts for just 7 per cent of the sector in the UK.

It was backed by new investment of £1.3bn to instal charge points in homes, streets and motorways across England in a bid to overcome consumer reluctance to adopt the cleaner technology.

Environmentalists hailed the move as a breakthrough which Greenpeace said could “put the government  back on track to meeting its climate commitment” of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It puts pressure on other countries to follow suit ahead of the COP26 UN climate change summit hosted by the UK in Glasgow next year, and will send a signal to manufacturers to invest in production of greener models.

But the CBI warned the new target date was “undoubtedly challenging” and would require support for the automotive sector to adapt.

Coming as the PM attempts to “reset” his government following the fractious departure of aide Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s plan aimed to target investment at former industrial heartlands in the Midlands, north of England, Scotland and Wales which he has promised to “level up” with the prosperous south.

The PM claimed the programme could create and support up to 250,000 high-skilled green jobs and leverage in more than £36bn in private sector investment over the next 10 years. He said: “Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, I haven’t lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up across the country. My 10-point plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050. 

“Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the northeast, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future.”

But shadow business secretary Ed Miliband warned that the funding announced “doesn’t remotely meet the scale of what is needed to tackle the unemployment emergency and climate emergency we are facing”, paling in comparison to the tens of billions committed by France and Germany or the £30bn of capital investment in low-carbon sectors demanded by Labour over the next 18 months.

“Only a fraction of the funding announced today is new,” said Mr Miliband. “We don’t need rebadged funding pots and reheated pledges, but an ambitious plan that meets the scale of the task we are facing and – crucially – creates jobs now.”

And Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said Mr Johnson should be aiming for billions more investment and millions of green jobs.

“Any action to address climate change is welcome, but this is nowhere near the scale or speed of what is needed,” he said. “This 10-point plan is essentially business as usual, with a few half-hearted measures and some wishful thinking about pie-in-the-sky technologies such as Jet Zero which don’t even exist yet.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs said the plan “falls far short of the ambitious policy overhaul needed to demonstrate real global leadership on the climate crisis”.

“While the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and the commitment to building a much larger offshore wind industry are very welcome, the government must also encourage the development of onshore wind and commit to ending gas-fired heating in our homes,” he warned. 

The chair of the government’s independent advisory Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben, said he was “delighted” by the breadth of the plans, which he said would give Britons the chance to tell their grandchildren that “the UK acted in time”.

But he added: “This must now be turned into a detailed road map – so we all know what’s coming down the track in the years ahead.”

Dr Jonathan Marshall of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said Mr Johnson’s plans “tick off a number of the major policy decisions needed to get the UK demonstrably back on track to its net zero target”.

But he warned: “Gaps still remain. Onshore wind and solar energy remain unsupported, long shots such as modular nuclear power and direct air capture may not pay off, and natural solutions to climate change – planting trees and restoring peat bogs – remain largely overlooked and ignored.”

Alongside investment in charge-points, Mr Johnson announced £582m in grants for zero or ultra-low emission vehicles and almost £500m for the development and mass-scale production of EV batteries. A consultation will be launched on a phase-out date for new diesel HGVs.

He committed up to £500m to develop the use of hydrogen fuel, including for domestic heating and cooking, with the target of creating a hydrogen neighbourhood by 2023, a hydrogen village by 2025 and a hydrogen town of tens of thousands of homes before the end of the decade.

An extra £200m of new funding will bring UK investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to £1bn, with the aim of creating two CCS clusters by the mid-2020s, and two more by 2030, potentially in areas such as the Humber, Teesside, Merseyside, Grangemouth or Port Talbot.

And the PM promised an additional £525m for large and smaller-scale nuclear plants and research and development of new advanced modular reactors.

Other elements of the plan included:  

* A new target to instal 600,000 heat pumps a year as part of a drive for energy-efficient homes, schools and hospitals;

* Planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year;

* Making the City of London the global centre of green finance; and

* Support for walking, cycling and zero-emission public transport.

Industry welcomed the package as an opportunity for the UK to lead the world in the technologies of the future. Mr Johnson was due to host a “virtual roundtable” with potential investors on Wednesday.

CBI acting director-general Josh Hardie said the 10-point plan would provide “a springboard to the huge opportunities for UK-wide investment and green jobs that a true low-carbon economy can bring”.

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