The sale of new diesel and petrol cars are to be banned in Britain from 2040, the Government has announced.
A clean air strategy is being launched on Wednesday and the ban is expected to follow similar plans announced in France earlier this month.
It comes amid increasing signs that the shift to electric vehicles is accelerating.
Some experts claim that there won’t be any petrol or diesel vehicles to buy by 2030 anyway.
Read more: Cornwall in top 20 counties for electric car uptake
On Tuesday, BMW announced plans for an electric Mini to be assembled at its Oxford plant while earlier this month Volvo unveiled its move towards cleaner cars.
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.
Final measures are due by the end of July
Despite government efforts to delay publication of the plans until after the general election, ministers were forced to set out the draft plans in May, with the final measures due by July 31.
A £255 million fund is expected to be unveiled to help councils speed up local measures to deal with pollution from diesel vehicles, as part of £3 billion spending on air quality.
Read more: Cornwall lithium to power electric cars world revolution
It is thought ministers will also consult on a diesel scrappage scheme to take the dirtiest vehicles off the road.
An electric car charging point (Image: PA)
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.
Read more: These cheap polystyrene bodyboards are bad for Cornwall’s beaches and should be banned
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.
A hybrid petrol electric vehicle is charged in a special parking bay (Image: Getty Images)
Worries about ‘punishing’ diesel drivers
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.
They favour local measures such as retrofitting buses and other transport to make them cleaner, changing road layouts and even altering features such as speed humps and re-programming traffic lights to make traffic flow more smoothly to reduce pollution.
Read more: This is what you need to know about parking on the pavement
Air pollution is linked to around 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and transport also makes up a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions.
A government spokesman said: “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.
Read more: Eden Project feels the benefit of Renault EVs including the ‘world’s smallest ambulance’
“That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3 billion programme to clean up dirty air around our roads.
“Our plan to deal with dirty diesels will help councils clean up emissions hotspots – often a single road – through common sense measures which do not unfairly penalise ordinary working people.
“Diesel drivers are not to blame and, to help them switch to cleaner vehicles, the Government will consult on a targeted scrappage scheme, one of a number of measures to support motorists affected by local plans.”
Taken to court over clean air strategy
Environmental law firm ClientEarth took the Government to court over its clean air strategy.
Read more: Former BBC producer in shocking road rage rant is to host relaxation retreats in Cornwall
Its chief executive James Thornton said: “The Government has trumpeted some promising measures with its air quality plans, but we need to see the detail.
“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.
What car makers think about the ban
Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars’ president and chief executive. Picture by Reuters.
Mike Hawes of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the automotive sector could be “undermined” if the industry was not given enough time to adapt to the new policy.
He said: “Much depends on the cost of these new technologies and how willing consumers are to adopt battery, plug in hybrid and hydrogen cars.
Read more: This Land Rover is emerging from a Cornish beach after getting stuck almost 30 years ago
“Currently demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles is growing but still at a very low level as consumers have concern over affordability, range and charging points.
“Outright bans risk undermining the current market for new cars and our sector which supports over 800,000 jobs across the UK so the industry instead wants a positive approach which gives consumers incentives to purchase these cars.”
We won’t want petrol or diesel cars by then anyway
But Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, which runs a network of electric vehicle charging points, said changes in the industry would mean such a ban may not be needed.
He told Walesonline: “The market will beat both governments (the French and British) to this, there won’t be any new petrol or diesel cars available to buy anyway by 2040.
“The speed that car manufacturers are moving at, I’d guess by 2030 you’ll have to work hard to find one of these old fashioned things.
“Volvo will be there in 18 months, who’s next?”
More Cornwall News
Source: Cornwall Live