The sale of new diesel trucks in the UK will be banned from 2040 under the government’s transport decarbonisation plan due to be unveiled on Wednesday, according to people briefed on the proposals.
The much delayed plan will include several public consultations on measures designed to cut pollution in the transport sector as the UK seeks to have net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The paper, which has yet to be signed off by ministers, should be published on the same day as the European Commission sets out how the EU aims to meet its goal of cutting emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030. Brussels wants to increase taxes on polluting fuels and introduce an EU-wide levy on aviation kerosene for the first time.
Under one proposal in the UK paper, the sale of smaller diesel trucks would be banned from 2035, and larger ones weighing more than 26 tonnes from 2040, according to government and industry figures.
The schedule compares to how the government is proposing to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, and hybrid vehicles from 2035.
The UK paper is also expected to lay the groundwork for the politically difficult issue of road pricing, which green experts have said will be necessary to recoup the £37bn a year the government currently secures from carbon taxes such as fuel levies and vehicle excise duty once electric cars become dominant.
The government is due to launch a consultation on a so-called “ZEV mandate” under which carmakers in the UK would have to produce a minimum proportion of electric cars.
Currently, car brands in the UK must ensure their sales meet an average carbon emissions limit that applied when the country was part of the EU.
The government’s fleet of ministerial vehicles is due to switch to new electric cars from 2027.
The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government, said last year that sales of diesel-powered heavy goods vehicles should be phased out “no later” than 2040.
Last year Europe’s six largest truckmakers, including Volvo and Daimler, pledged to end diesel sales by 2040.
UK hauliers have said a 2040 target would be setting “the bar too high” as technology “doesn’t exist today” that would allow the largest long-distance lorries to run on batteries.
Some manufacturers including Tesla and Volvo are developing electric lorries but some experts have said hydrogen will be a more realistic option for the largest HGVs.
Graeme Cooper, head of future markets at National Grid, said: “While there might be uncertainty as to which technology is best for clean HGVs, there are . . . actions that can be taken now, such as investing in energy infrastructure ahead of need.”
Ministers are turning to the difficult challenge of reducing emissions from transport and homes in order to hit the net zero 2050 target.
The transport decarbonisation paper is expected to show how much cuts in pollution by the sector will contribute to the overall UK target of reducing emissions by 78 per cent from 1990 levels by 2035.
The government’s impact assessments have shown it will require a massive increase in the take-up of purely battery electric vehicles in the UK.
Tim Lord, who was director for clean growth at the business department until 2020 and is now at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a think-tank, said the UK paper needed to mark the moment the government moved from targets and ambition to practical policy.
He added a strategy that “shied away from hard choices” in areas such as car use and road pricing would be a missed opportunity.
The Department for Transport declined to comment.