The target for banning sales of new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward from 2040, ideally to 2030, or to 2035 at the latest, according to a committee set up by the Government to advise it on emissions targets.

It also urges the government to support strengthening of the UK’s infrastructure for charging electric vehicles.

In its latest report the Committee on Climate Change says the UK can and should reduce its greenhouse emissions to zero by 2050, but to do so many sectors of industry will have to meet stiffer targets.

The report states: “By 2035 at the latest all new cars and vans should be electric (or use a low-carbon alternative such as hydrogen). If possible, an earlier switchover (eg 2030) would be desirable, reducing costs for motorists and improving air quality.

“This could help position the UK to take advantage of shifts in global markets. The Government must continue to support strengthening of the charging infrastructure, including for drivers without access to off-street parking.”

Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted. The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”