The UK is set to follow in France’s footsteps with the Government announcement that all new diesel and petrol vehicles are to be banned from 2040, in a bid to tackle air pollution.
Poor air quality is one of the biggest environmental risks to public health in the UK. It is thought that UK air pollution could be linked to approximately 40,000 premature deaths a year.
Councils are being given £255m to tackle vehicle emissions as part of a £3bn Government programme to improve air quality.
Other measures being considered in addition to the ban on new diesel and petrol vehicles include retrofitting buses, changing road layouts and re-programming traffic lights to achieve smoother traffic flows. A scrappage scheme is expected to be announced later this year.
A tax for vehicles to enter determined ‘clean air zones’ could bring about the biggest cut to pollution, although the Government has suggested that these charges won’t be introduced unless all other attempts to solve pollution are unsuccessful. Environment Secretary Michael Gove says ministers are wary of ‘unfairly penalising’ drivers with such taxes and restrictions.
Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Mike Hawes has however warned that an outright ban of diesels could also be damaging to the sector, especially if the industry is not given enough time to adjust, saying ‘the industry wants a positive approach which gives consumers incentives to purchase these [alternatively fuelled] cars’.
The AA have said significant investment in infrastructure would be necessary to install charging points nationwide and also warned of pressures to the National Grid due to surges in charging after rush hour.
Environmental law firm and campaign group, ClientEarth, have said they cautiously welcome the announcement. CEO James Thornton described measures such as improved funding for local authorities and the ban of diesel and petrol vehicles as ‘promising’ but said they would like to see the plans in more detail and implemented as soon as possible.
We are seeing a global shift towards electric and hybrid cars, with similar plans to phase out diesel and petrol cars in France revealed by President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month, and recent announcements of a move towards electric models by both Volvo and BMW.
UK car industry expert Professor David Bailey from Aston University predicts a switch-over to electric cars is likely to be as soon as the mid-2020’s, when production could allow them to be more accessible and to compete with traditional vehicles on cost.