The UK government has been under pressure in recent years, to push for more ambitious targets regarding its policy on cars, with the aim of having a ‘zero emissions’ from cars by 2040, pushed forward by at least seven years. With there being increasing calls in order to get diesel and petrol cars off the road in hopes of drastically reducing the nations carbon footprint, the government seem to be ambivalent towards other environmental projects that could aid or damage this goal.
The diesel and petrol ban in itself has raised questions on how plausible it is as present. The massive push would not only change our environmental impact but alter driving culture as we know it, calls for a nationwide increase in charging points could possibly raise issues with power demand and supply. Many have called the government out for making the plan ‘obscure’ and some have said that it is simply not enough. The UK governments attitude towards this policy is problematic, it lacks enthusiasm, commitment and desire in order to truly pursue a Green future for the UK.
Over the past year tax on older and ‘dirtier’ cars has risen, however in the last week subsidies for new hybrid cars have just been cut. The Tory’s are enjoying swinging their legs on both sides of the proverbial fence. While happy to penalise those with more polluting cars, they’re providing less incentive to reward those who switch. It is also worth noting that local councils may soon be handed the right to charge or ban drivers on specific roads. While this is a step further into creating cleaner air zones, nobody seems to be thinking of the impact this could have on the average taxpayer.
Owners of older and environmentally-unfriendly cars are most likely to be those on benefits, lower incomes and students. These people are now not only paying more tax on their cars but could be struck with charges on roads or bans all together, which arguably lessens their ability to save for an electric car, for which the incentive has just be reduced.
Looking back at the governments ‘track record’ on recent environmental affairs, Theresa May has had a questionable approach when it comes to going green. Earlier this year the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project was scrapped due to it not being ‘value for money’ despite being largely private funded, backed by the regional Welsh government and being revised to produce a cheaper cost. The bay was estimated to provide power for 11% of Wales’ energy consumption while saving 236,000 tonnes of carbon per year. Around the time this decision was made the government also decided to confirm Heathrow’s expansion for a third runway.
With the Heathrow expansion estimated to cost £14 billion, not including government plans to provide soundproofing to local residential areas, this dwarfs the estimated tidal bay cost of around £1.3 billion. Here lies the problem. The government clearly views one as a bill and one as an investment. Heathrow shows a clear ability to produce payment and profits for the UK, on the other hand, the tidal bay is not so quantifiable. A recent Government report said that building a third runway would undoubtedly mean that the UK misses its environmental targets that we signed up for at the Paris Climate Accord.
The UK has a clear destination in terms of environmental goals but seems to lack the means to get there directly. Relying on vague and difficult plans such as banning diesel and petrol cars, is evidently not enough- especially when plans with tremendous impact are being scrapped due to their lack of ‘value.’