On today’s episode we will look at the recent announcement that the UK will ban all new fossil fuel powered vehicles by 2030! As part of the UK’s “green industrial revolution”, people will be encouraged to move to electric cars instead of petrol or diesel powered ones. What else is part of the “green new deal”?  Does it go far enough? We’ll look at these questions and more in this episode of Thinking in English!

(If you can’t see the podcast player click here to listen!)

Vocabulary List

fossil fuel (n) – fuels, such as gas, coal, and oil, that were formed underground from plant and animal remains millions of years ago

Many governments around the world are trying to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources

hybrid (n) – something that is a mixture of two very different things. So, a hybrid vehicle is a vehicle with an engine that used both petrol and another type of energy, usually electricity

Most car manufactures now offer hybrids

pole position (n) – the leading or best possible position

The supermarket chain is aiming to gain pole position in chosen markets

famine (n) – a situation in which there is not enough food for a great number of people, causing illness and death

Another crop failure could result in widespread famine

Drought (n) – a long period when there is little or no rain

This year a severe drought has ruined the crops

Emissions (n) – an amount of a substance that is produced and sent out into the air that is harmful to the environment, especially carbon dioxide

There are many health risks caused by vehicle emissions

Greenhouse gas (n) – one of several gases, especially carbon dioxide, that prevent heat from the earth escaping into space, causing the greenhouse effect

We need a global system for limiting greenhouse gas emissions

Subsidy (n) – money given as part of the cost of something, to help or encourage it to happen

The company received a substantial government subsidy 

offshore (adj) – away from or at a distance from the coast

The wind was blowing offshore

pressing (adj) – urgent or needing to be dealt with immediately

The most pressing question is what do we do next?

Shadow (adj) – used in the title of important politicians in the main opposition party (= the party not in government):

Shadow Foreign Secretary or Shadow Chancellor 

The United Kingdom has announced that it will ban the sale of all new fossil fuel powered vehicles in 2030 as part of the country’s “green industrial revolution” plan. The motivation behind the “green industrial revolution” is to tackle the growing challenges posed by climate change and global warming, as well as supporting the UK’s economic recovery from the ongoing pandemic by creating jobs in new industries!

From 2030, all new petrol (or gasoline if you prefer American English) and diesel cars will no longer be able to be sold. Moreover, by 2035 most hybrid vehicles will also be banned. In doing so, the UK is in pole position to be one of the first major economies and the first G7 country to remove highly polluting vehicles from its roads! Originally planned to begin in 2040, the UK decision will likely increase the design and production of electric cars over the next few years. Only Norway has an earlier date to ban fossil fuel cars; they will do so five years earlier in 2025! 

Climate change and global warming are potentially the biggest challenges facing our societies over the coming century; increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and unpredictable weather are just some of the consequences! In turn, these can cause major problems ranging from poor air quality, to famine and drought. According to a 2019 European parliament report, road vehicles produce up to 30% of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions. As one of the most damaging greenhouse gases, CO2 emissions need to be reduced and Britain’s new rules could help to achieve this.

£4 billion, out of a £12 billion package of public spending, will be used to fund the “green industrial revolution”, and is hoped to attract 3 times more private investment! To accelerate sales of cleaner or electric vehicles, the UK government aims to spend £1.3 billion on electric vehicle charging points, and nearly £500 million to develop electric car batteries. In addition, £582 million in subsidies will make zero and ultra-low emission vehicles cheaper for people to buy. In combination with the car ban, it is hoped that these measures will encourage as many people as possible to purchase clean vehicles. Moreover, it might make manufacturers more committed to designing electric cars, considering that the UK is one of the largest markets for new cars in the world.

Banning polluting vehicles is just one part of the 10 point plan introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson! The UK is also focusing on offshore windpower, with the goal of producing enough offshore wind to power every home in the UK. To do this they will quadruple the amount of wind power produced by 2030. Wind Power is not the only non-fossil fuel energy source the UK is focusing on. Part of the “green industrial revolution” is pushing nuclear power as a clean energy source! Funding has been made available for a new large nuclear plant, as well as for more advanced small nuclear reactors.

Making homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient is another key aim of the policy. Part of this is a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028. Heat pumps are low-energy electrical devices for warming homes. Furthermore, the UK is also focusing on developing world-leading technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030 

Final Thoughts

The reaction to the UK’s “green industrial revolution” has been mixed, to say the least. On the one hand, it is definitely a step in the right direction! The environment is a pressing concern, and governments around the world should encourage fast and proactive action to reduce the damage their country causes. Many of the policies on the UK’s 10 point plan will help to achieve this! On the other hand, critics have argued that it is not far reaching enough. The £4bn allocated to implement the plan is far too small for the scale of the challenge. For instance, the new high speed rail being built in the UK is going to cost 25 times more than the £4 billion given to environmental issues! 

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband criticised the plan, saying that the funding does not “remotely meet the scale of what is needed” to tackle unemployment and the climate emergency, and is “Only a fraction of the funding announced today is new.” While the UK’s environment focused Green party welcomed some measures, they stated that “When you put it in the context of the scale of the climate and nature emergencies that we face, and indeed the scale of the job emergencies that we face, then it’s nowhere near ambitious enough, it’s not urgent enough, it’s not bold enough!”

Overall, i think the UK is travelling in the right direction over the next few years – especially compared to similar sized countries and economies! What are your countries doing to respond to environmental problems? WHere should money be invested? In electric cars, renewable energy, carbon capture? Or is the problem overstated? What do you think?

Comprehension Questions

Q. Which country will ban fossil fuel cars 5 years before the UK?

A. Norway

Q. Road vehicles produce how much of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions?

A. Around 30%

Q. Who is the UK’s shadow business secretary?

A. Ed Miliband 

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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