Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in an attempt to reduce air pollution, a move that will spell doom for oil producers such as Nigeria.
The measure, 23 years away, could herald the end of over a century of the popular use of the fossil fuel-guzzling internal combustion engine.
Britain’s step, which follows France, amounts to a victory for electric cars that could eventually transform the wealth of major oil producers, car industry employment and one of the icons of 20th-century capitalism: the automobile itself.
The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025, while the French government also aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.
The British government has been under pressure to take steps to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups, and in May set out proposals for a scrappage scheme to get rid of the most polluting vehicles.
“Today we are confirming that that means there should be no new diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040,” environment minister Michael Gove told BBC Radio.
There is a mountain to climb, however.
Electric cars currently account for less than 5 per cent of new car registrations in Britain, with drivers concerned about the cost and limited availability of charging points and manufacturers worried about making expensive investments before the demand is there.
“We could undermine the UK’s successful automotive sector if we don’t allow enough time for the industry to adjust,” warned Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
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