COP26: Boris Johnson to move diesel ban forward to 2035 and call for global net-zero transition

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use the COP26 climate conference to call on other nations to follow the UK in setting a net-zero target and is also set to reveal plans to move the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars forward five years to 2035 as part of a "year of climate action".

Boris Johnson and Mark Carney will be two of the key figures attending COP26 later this year -  Foreign and Commonwealth Office / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)”

Boris Johnson and Mark Carney will be two of the key figures attending COP26 later this year -  Foreign and Commonwealth Office / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)”

Johnson is set to formally launch COP26, a two-week conference that will take place in winter this year, at an event in London this morning (4 February). He will be joined by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and his new finance advisor for the climate conference Mark Carney.

He will officially announce 2020 as a “year of climate action” and call on other nations to follow the UK in setting a net-zero target for 2050. So far, around 80 nations have such targets in place, but most of them have small carbon footprints. It is currently the European Union (EU) that looks like the biggest group nations set to sign up to a net-zero agreement.

“Hosting COP26 is an important opportunity for the UK and nations across the globe to step up in the fight against climate change,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office ahead of a speech in London on Tuesday.

“As we set out our plans to hit our ambitious 2050 net-zero target across this year, so we shall urge others to join us in pledging net zero emissions.”

Five-year jump

Johnson will also announce that the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be moved from 2040 to 2035, subject to consultation. For the first time, the UK’s polluting vehicle phase-out will include hybrid vehicles.

It is still unclear as to when the Prime Minister will name the new COP26 president, after former president Claire O’Neill was removed from the position.

Reports suggest that the UK Government was concerned that O’Neill lacked understanding of the intricacies of leading global negotiations. The likes of Michael Gove, Zac Goldsmith, Andrea Leadsom and former Conservative leaders William Hague and Michael Howard are amongst the frontrunners of possible candidates.

O'Neill has since claimed that Johnson has shown a “huge lack of leadership and engagement” over COP26, with the Guardian suggesting that she feels he does not understand the issue of climate change.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the government would raise its own ambitions during the year of climate action.

"This is my number one priority, and we will raise our ambition in this year of climate action, including with new plans to decarbonise every sector, enabling a greener future for all our children," Leadsom said.

Commenting on the accelerating of polluting vehicle phase-outs, Helen Clarkson, CEO of the international non-profit The Climate Group, said: “We are glad to see a more ambitious target from the UK government. However, we believe that this could still be sooner – and that to be a global leader, especially post-Brexit, a 2030 phase-out commitment is required; without this, we risk being out of step with our international peers.”

 “Our business campaign for the 100% adoption of electric vehicles by 2030, EV100, has 62 corporate members, many of which are British, including AstraZeneca, BT, Centrica, Foxtons, Mitie, RBS, SSE and Unilever. Businesses are showing what is possible and The Climate Group would love to see this level of ambition matched.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs said: “The government is right to accelerate the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars to curb air pollution and address the climate emergency, but the ban should start in 2030 – not 2035. A new 2035 target will still leave the UK in the slow-lane of the electric car revolution and meantime allow more greenhouse gases to spew into the atmosphere.
 
“If the UK government wants to show real leadership ahead of this year’s climate summit it must also urgently reverse its plans for more climate-wrecking roads and runways – and pull the plug on its support for new gas, coal and oil developments.”

Matt Mace



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