The UK government has unveiled plans to ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040 along with measures to help local authorities meet air quality targets, according to a report by The Guardian newspaper. The announcement follows one similar by the French government earlier this month.
“Air pollution continues to have an unnecessary and avoidable impact on people’s health,” the government said in a statement, adding that poor air quality poses the biggest environmental hazard to public health in the UK, “costing the country up to £2.7 billion in lost productivity in 2012.”
Local authorities will be expected to produce draft plans for how they intend to reduce roadside nitrogen and carbon emissions, with final action plans due by the end of 2018. Funding will be made available for local councils to change road layouts to reduce congestion, purchase new low-emission vehicles and retrofit public transport.
Some £3 billion will be spent on implementing the plan.
Other provisions include a £1 billion investment in ultra-low emissions vehicles, including £100 million to expand the UK’s charging network; £50 million for a plug-in taxi programme; an £89 million Green Bus Fund and a £1.2 billion investment in cycling and walking infrastructure.
The commitment comes amid growing criticism of the UK’s air quality which is estimated to cause 40,000 premature deaths per year. Repeated breaches of EU air quality directives have lead to legal challenges being brought against the government, forcing their hand to act.
“A clear policy to move people towards cleaner vehicles by banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans after 2040 is welcome, as is more funding for local authorities. However, the law says ministers must bring down illegal levels of air pollution as soon as possible, so any measures announced in this plan must be focused on doing that,” ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said to the Guardian.
Greenpeace pointed out that an earlier pledge to create clean air zones around the worst pollution blackspots had seemingly been dropped in this plan and that the promise of a ban on diesel and petrol cars by 2040 fell short of plans by Germany, India, the Netherlands and Norway to ban them by 2030 or sooner. Mike Hawes of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that the ban could undermine the market for new cars and the UK’s auto industry, which employs over 800,000 people unless consumer are properly incentivised to switch to electric cars.
Recent reports by ING and Bloomberg have pointed to plummeting battery prices as well as greatly extended range per charge contributing to the eclipse of diesel and petrol cars by electric vehicles within the next two decades, much sooner than previously expected.