China, whose 1.4 billion people make up the world’s largest market for vehicles, announced that it will ban the production and sale of petrol and diesel cars “in the near future.” The decision comes after Britain and France said they would prohibit the sale of fossil fuel cars starting in 2040. China, however, will be the largest market yet to unveil such a plan.

According to vice-minister of industry and information technology Xin Guobin, the administration has begun “relevant research” as it develops a timetable.  At an auto forum on Saturday in the city of Tianjin, Xin said the move will have a profound impact on the environment and the future of China’s growing auto industry.

“These measures will promote profound changes in the environment and give momentum to China’s auto industry development,” Xin said in a statement broadcast by CCTV state television.

“Enterprises should strive to improve the level of energy saving for traditional cars, and vigorously develop new energy vehicles according to assessment requirements,” he added.

According to Sophie Lu, head of China research with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “The most important driver is not just environmental, it’s economic. Chinese regulators see the success of Tesla and other Californian companies, and want to promote the same success amongst Chinese car manufacturers.”

In April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk travelled to China, reportedly to negotiate a deal to produce electric cars in Shanghai.

In 2016, China manufactured and sold over 28 million vehicles, according to data from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers. New-energy vehicle sales increased to 500,000, a 50 percent increase from the previous year, according national industry data.

In June, the administration introduced a draft regulation featuring a complex quota system, to oblige automakers to produce more electric vehicles in China. Since then, foreign automakers have also unveiled plans to offer electric cars in China. In 2019, Volvo plans to offer its first 100 percent electric car in China. Ford will begin offering its first hybrid vehicle, estimating that 70 percent of all of its cars available in China will have electric options by 2025.

In addition to similar commitments from Britain and France, India has set a goal to replace or retrofit all vehicles with combustion engines by 2030.

China has committed to cap carbon emissions by 2030, and to combat ongoing problems with air pollution. President Xi Jinping has become an enthusiastic proponent of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, particularly since President Trump backed the US out of the deal in June.

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