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  • Madeline Locke

The Ineffectiveness of Electrical Vehicle Policies in the United Kingdom

Courtesy of Evocharge

As countries race to meet the goals set by the 2015 Paris agreement, and work to reverse the damage caused by climate change, the United Kingdom is rushing to battle the effects climate change has had on the health of its people. However each solution presents a new problem. 

On Sept. 20, 2023, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave a speech announcing that the British government was “going to ease the transition to electric vehicles”. Rather than running on gas and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an electric vehicle is charged up and emits barely if no carbon dioxide at all. The Electric Broker even writes that, “with the production of lithium batteries and the source of electricity used to charge them, they are significantly better for the environment compared to petrol or diesel vehicles”. However, this does not mean that an electric vehicle cannot contribute to climate change in other ways.

Electric vehicles are made of precious metals, such as copper, iron and numerous other materials that are extracted or mined in unsustainable ways. Another downside to purchasing an electric vehicle in the United Kingdom is that electric vehicles are expensive to purchase. The cheapest EV is £22,225, the equivalent of $27,672.53 USD. The cheapest regular vehicle is being sold for £15,990 which is equal to 19,909.15 USD. There is also the debate as to whether or not electric vehicles are impractical and if they are better for the environment than gas vehicles. Though they may seem like the more practical choice to aid the United Kingdom in reaching Net Zero, it is unfortunately more difficult than Prime Minister Sunak portrays it to be, given that some families may be unable to afford an electric vehicle. 

Another solution that Prime Minister Sunak presented was to replace heating pumps with electric ones. In order to decrease emissions per household, “[...] cash grants to replace their boiler will be increased by 50% to 7.5 pounds,” and the people would not need to repay the cash grant. A normal heat pump can cost between £7,000 to £35,000, with ground heat pumps being more expensive than air source heating pumps. Though this may seem like a good incentive to switch to an electric heating pump, many British people believe it is foolish to spend money on a new heat pump when their current one is in perfect working condition. This leaves many with the question of if spending all the money will help accomplish the goal of reaching Net Zero? 

Given these questions and the price of all these changes, Prime Minister Sunak’s choices were not met with praise. According to NPR, the original plan was to meet these two goals and more by 2030, but Sunak has since delayed it to 2035. Though this may give more people time to try and figure out how to include more electric-run items in their household and everyday lives, it does not come without drawbacks. Lisa Brankin from Ford stated, “our business needs three things from the U.K. government: ambition, commitment, and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three”. 

The original plan was for electric vehicles to replace all other vehicles by 2030, and for Britain to implement numerous strategies to make the transition to sustainable energy more clean for everyone. However, the original plans were decided upon in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a Climate Change Committee (CCC) that researches the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses, and devise plans based on their findings. Afterwards, they will submit their plans to Parliament. Those who oppose the delaying of the original plan include Ford, Eon, business and business investors, and many other companies and individuals. 

The old adage “time is of the essence” is applicable since more people need extra time to make the changes and switch to electric vehicles and heat pumps, but it is unfortunate that time is running out. After all, “June 2023 was the UK’s hottest June on record[...]” and “July was the world’s warmest month on record[...]”. People are working on solutions and how to make it easier for the public to contribute to reaching Net Zero but the environment does not have the time to wait for everyone. This has officially become a now or never situation. 

The United Kingdom’s action plan to reach Net Zero is also necessary to maintain and protect the health of the people. “[...] The systems of determinants and impacts of climate change and health are interconnected, meaning action to one has the potential to affect the other”. Even if the correlation between human health and climate change in the UK and its new policies are hidden, they are still there. The most obvious indicator of the ineffectiveness of how the UK’s new policies will affect human health is when the extreme temperatures and natural disasters arrive. Many advocates believe that with the delay of 5 years, the damage will be done. 

Just as the Greener National Health Service has stated, “the climate emergency is a health emergency”. 


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