Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, said he welcomed the idea of bringing forward the UK’s ban on new petrol and diesel car sales that is currently set for 2040. MPs, mayors and thinktank Green Alliance have called for the date to be moved up to 2030 to address the health risks of air pollution, close the gap in the UK’s climate targets and avoid squandering the country’s leadership on electric cars.
The ban will not only cut demand for oil, but petrol stations as well, increasing the risk for companies that both produce gas and sell it directly to consumers, as Shell does.
The Guardian asked van Beurden about his views on accelerating the plan, to which he said, “If you would bring it forward, obviously that would be welcome. I think the UK will have to go at a much higher speed than the speed the rest of the world can go.”
He added that out of necessity, places such as Africa and Asia would have to switch to battery vehicles at a slower rate, but the UK could manage accelerating its plan. “The world will work at different speeds,” he said.
As for the rationale for his support of moving the date forward on the ban, van Beurden noted that making the decision would provide clarity and make it easier for companies such as Shell to make investment decisions, as well as help shift consumer attitudes.
One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, the Anglo-Dutch group has already begun responding to the rise of electric vehicles by buying related infrastructure firms and installing charging points at some of their petrol stations. Meanwhile, they are also looking towards future options such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The CEO added that a lot of work will be needed to cut emissions from transport, which has overtaken energy as the sector with the biggest carbon footprint in the UK. There are more than 140,000 plug-in cars in the UK, and about 2 percent of new car sales are electric. van Beurden said this made pure electric cars a “tiny proportion” of vehicles on the road.