The U.K. is joining the race to ban fossil fueled vehicles amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxide pose a major risk to public health. The plans follows France’s commitment to take polluting vehicles off the road, by 2040 to reduce air pollution and take steps towards becoming a carbon neutral country.
The expected move to ban petrol and diesel vans and cars follows similar plans announced in France this month and amid increasing signs that the shift to electric vehicles is accelerating.
The Government was ordered to produce new plans to tackle illegal levels of harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide after the courts agreed with environmental campaigners that a previous set of plans were insufficient to meet EU pollution limits.
A £255 million fund is expected to be unveiled to help councils speed up local measures to deal with pollution from diesel vehicles. These measure are to include fitting diesel vechicles with filters, changing road layouts and removing speed bumps.
“Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible,” a government spokesman said.
“That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3bn programme to clean up dirty air around our roads.”
The final plan, which was due by the end of July, comes after a draft report that environmental lawyers described as “much weaker than hoped for”.
It is thought ministers will also consult on a diesel scrappage scheme to take the dirtiest vehicles off the road.
Campaigners have demanded the final plans should include government-funded and mandated clean air zones, with charges for the most polluting vehicles to enter areas with high air pollution, as well as a diesel scrappage scheme.
Their calls for charging zones were backed up by an assessment published alongside the draft plans which suggested they were the most effective measures to tackle nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from diesel vehicles.
But ministers have been wary of being seen to “punish” drivers of diesel cars, who they claim bought the vehicles in good faith after being encouraged to by the last Labour government on the basis they produced lower carbon emissions.