Don’t be fooled. The Tories’ plan to ban diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040 is driven not by a love of clean air, but by European environmental standards
• Jonathan Freedland is Guardian columnist
Might today’s date live on in the history books as the official end of the industrial revolution, which began more than a century and a half ago? That’s probably a stretch, but the UK government’s announcement that all petrol and diesel cars and vans are to be banned by 2040 sounds like the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine, the invention that changed human life for ever.
Following a similar announcement by the French government, as well as Volvo’s plan to make only fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019, a world without the sounds or smells that dominated the 20th century suddenly becomes imaginable. It won’t be a world without cars. But the car powered by the burning of fossil fuel – at different times and in different places a symbol of technological progress, of power, of wealth, of capitalism, of freedom and, yes, of a particular kind of masculinity – is entering the final phase of its life.