Just last month The Pipeline's John O'Sullivan wrote about British prime minister Rishi Sunak's newly announced plan "to delay the ban on the sale of new petrol-driven cars from 2030 to 2035, water down the ban on gas heaters from 2030, and in general adopt a general attitude that the U.K. economy cannot be sacrificed to unrealistic Green targets of energy reduction." It was a hopeful report, and seemed to speak well of Sunak, who had evidently decided to distance himself from his climate utopian predecessors by leaning into reality.
Well unfortunately our hope was misplaced. In Britain's The Spectator, Ross Clark looked into the fine-print of Sunak's new plan, and saw that it was essentially window dressing:
What few noticed at the time was that the government has left in place most of the targets on the way to what had been the outright ban in 2030. Under the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, from next year each manufacturer will have to ensure that 22 percent of the new cars they sell are zero emission (which in practical terms means pure electric as there is a dearth of hydrogen-powered cars on the market). If they fail to do this, they will have to pay severe fines of up to £15,000 per vehicle. The target will increase to 28 percent in 2025 and 33 percent in 2033.
Still singing the body electric.
Which is to say, while it is technically true that the gas-and-diesel car sales won't be banned by 2030, in practical terms they will, since the government's "pathway" to the ban was still in force. Clark pointed out that it is exceedingly unlikely that U.K. car manufacturers meet these mandated E.V. goals on their own, as a quick glance at their current numbers demonstrates.
Last month, sales of pure electric cars were up 20 percent compared with October 2022. The trouble is, sales of petrol cars and hybrids rose sharply, too, so that the proportion of sales made up by pure electric cars has hardly shifted: only 15.6 percent of new cars were pure electric, up modestly from 14.8 percent in October 2022. As for sales over the first ten months of 2023, 16.3 percent were electric, up from 14.6 percent over the same period in 2022. These are figures across the whole industry. Given that some manufacturers have higher electric sales than others – Tesla, of course, is 100 percent electric – some must be falling a long way behind the 22 percent target which will be imposed on them in just two months’ time. Electric cars sales have stalled at around one sixth of total cars sales for a couple of years now, but so far manufacturers have not faced a penalty for that. So what happens now that they are going to be penalized?
Simple -- they will increasingly limit the number of traditional vehicles on offer in the U.K., something that Ford has already done with the Fiesta, one of Britain's most popular cars. Says Clark, "That will result in a lot less choice for motorists, and may end up with some manufacturers withdrawing from the UK market altogether."
But if Sunak's embrace of climate sanity was just smoke and mirrors, what was the point of it at all? Well, to try and repair his flailing party's fractured relationship with the voting public, of course. His hope was that by appearing open to scraping an unpopular policy he could get the people back on his side, and stave off the seemingly-inevitable (judging by both polls and anecdata) drubbing awaiting his party.
Of course, he doesn't desire the public's approval enough to actually change course. And that makes all the difference. As we've been saying, Sunak and the Tories deserve to lose. Unfortunately for Britain, and the western world generally, Labour are likely to be much, much worse.