27 July 2017 10:46:59 IST

UK to ban diesel and petrol cars by 2040

Elevated levels of air pollution and climate change fears behind the move

Britain will join other European nations in plans to ban diesel and petrol fuelled cars in the coming decades, in a move designed to force a shake-up within the auto industry as governments seek to deal with high levels of air pollution and climate change.

New diesel and petrol cars will be banned by 2040, as part of a package of measures designed to improve air quality in Britain, and meet tough EU rules on emissions, particularly around nitrogen dioxide emissions.

“There is no alternative…we cannot carry on with diesel and petrol — we would accelerate climate change and do damage to our planet and the next generation,” Britain’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC Radio ahead of the announcement.

Solutions package

The plan also includes a £255-million package for local governments to bring in innovative solutions that would result in shorter-term changes, too.

While the government hopes to avoid charges in the short term, it remains a possibility in high emission areas.

The announcement puts flesh on previous government ambitions.

“We want almost every car and van to be zero emission by 2050,” read the Conservative Party’s 2017 election manifesto.

Last year, Norway announced plans to phase out new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025 via a green tax system, while France will end the sales of these vehicles by 2040, according to plans unveiled by Emmanuel Macron’s government earlier this month.

Other countries are considering moves too: Germany’s Bundesrat called for petrol vehicles to be phased out by 2030.

Pollution limits

Britain’s high levels of air pollution — estimated to cause 40,000 deaths a year — have come under close scrutiny in recent years, with London breaching its annual air pollution limits under EU rules just 117 hours into 2017.

The government says 4 per cent of Britain’s major roads are in breach of air pollution limits.

Much concern has focused on diesel cars, embraced by Britain alongside the rest of Europe thanks to an incentive programme and the belief that it is more efficient and less polluting — a perspective that has been rapidly dispelled, particularly in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

“Moving people to cleaner vehicles by 2040 is welcome, but illegal pollution should be tackled as soon as possible,” tweeted ClientEarth, a campaign group that had taken the government to court, demanding that it publish its plans to tackle air pollution, arguing that its current proposals did not meet legal requirements. The government is set to publish its wider Clean Air Strategy in 2018.