Will Banning Cars Save the Planet?

In Britain, Liberal Democrats are pushing a proposal that to ban “average” gas-consuming cars from the road by 2040. Led by Lord President of the Council Nick Clegg, the movement  aims to prevent any vehicles that aren’t electric or high-efficiency hybrid from being used in the United Kingdom. The proposal states, “By 2040, only ultra-low carbon vehicles will be permitted on UK roads for non-freight purposes.”


The motion has been garnering its fair share of criticism, with its opposition claiming that the movement would limit the freedom of choice, dictating individuals’ lives where the government has no right to intervene. In truth, the proposal will likely gain little momentum is the coming years, as it has to navigate through the political and social glut that can effectively halt any movement of its nature in its tracks.

But that’s not to say that Clegg’s proposition isn’t symbolically significant. Studies have proven that automobiles are overwhelmingly the largest net contributor to global warming; in the U.S.,transportation accounts for thirty percent of the nation’s carbon emissions. Climate change is a colossal issue – and in lessening this primary source, we could begin to chip away at global warming’s armor in earnest.

We are living in the year 2013 — 2040 is twenty-seven years away. So let’s think about this pragmatically. Most people do not drive cars that are over twenty years old. Thus, if every individual that was going to buy a new car from here on out were to opt for a hybrid/fuel efficient model, then Clegg’s seemingly autocratic proposition would simply be a normal course of action. Car companies are churning out more efficient models at an unprecedented rate – and the options are no longer budgeted solely for high-income families. Affordability sits at the crux of this environmental gamechanger. Car brands like Tesla might offer the perfect marriage of luxury and efficiency, but their price tag of $90,000 turns most consumers away. Models like the Honda Fit or the Ford Focus ensure that people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can afford to make earth-friendly choices.


There’s another transportation game changer in the mix. Every year, the use of public transportation in urban areas is growing exponentially. New York Times reported that, in 2011, “Americans took 200 million more rides last year on subways, commuter trains, light-rail systems and public buses than they did the year before.” Whether motivated by environmental or financial (or both) factors, research indicates that people are more apt to use public transportation to commute to work, so long as it is readily accessible. Many cities are making an effort to improve their public transportation networks. This is where the real change can happen. In urban areas, mass transit holds the key to a better future for our environment.

With luck, Clegg’s mandate will not be necessary, and will instead describe a natural movement towards sustainable lifestyle choices. We all share responsibility for our planet – and we all have to make choices that reflect that.

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