Electric vehicle revolution: Government creates Zero-Emission Vehicle Transition Council

The UK Government has set up a new coalition of international ministers and car sector representatives, to support the global transition and its own ban on new petrol and diesel car sales from 2030.

Transport is the most-emitting sector in the UK and in many other countries

Transport is the most-emitting sector in the UK and in many other countries

Called the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council, the initiative is hosted by COP26 chairman and Business Secretary Alok Sharma. It convenes ministers specialising in transport, business and the environment from 12 nations - including Canada, South Korea and Japan, which all pledged to set net-zero targets this year.

Representatives from the car sector will be announced in the coming months. BEIS has signalled its intentions to have smaller firms specialising in electric vehicles (EVs) represented along with auto industry giants. Cities, regions, trade bodies and civil society will also be represented.

The COP26 secretariat said in a statement that the aim of the Council is to deliver a “rapid” global transition to zero-emission vehicles which is also “cheaper and easier for all”. Current barriers noted in the statement include scaling up the production of vehicles and producing a greater variety of vehicles; bringing down the upfront cost of EVs and improving infrastructure.

The statement floats the possibility of nations adopting emissions targets for transport specifically, or setting goals for zero-emission vehicle adoption.

It also highlights the fact that the Council will focus on the circular economy for EVs as well as their climate impact. Experts have warned that the development and industrialisation of recycling technologies for end-of-life EV batteries is currently being outpaced by a boom of EV uptake, paving the way for a "huge waste management problem" in decades to come.

Race to zero

While the remit of the new Council is global, its creation comes shortly after the UK brought its national ban on new petrol and diesel car sales forward from 2035 to 2030, as part of Boris Johnson’s ten-point plan on climate action.

Under Theresa May, the UK Government had initially introduced the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales with a 2040 deadline. Following criticism from green groups, including its own Committee on Climate Change, over the policy’s alignment with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, Johnson moved in February to alter the deadline to 2035. 2035 is the date cited by the CCC in its initial recommendations framework on legislating for net-zero by mid-century.

The 2030 date had been backed by businesses operating some of the UK’s largest private-sector fleets, including Royal Mail. But many carmakers and trade bodies have expressed anger at the new target, claiming that the industry is not ready to deliver such a rapid transition, and that costs will be passed on to the consumer.

Sellers will still be able to offer second-hand petrol and diesel cars after 2030. Other vehicle types, including vans and motorcycles, are also not affected.

Sarah George



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