The Government has confirmed it will end the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, as part of its plans to tackle air pollution. The move follows a similar decision by France earlier in July.
Although welcomed by environmental groups and campaigners, some have argued that traditionally fuelled vehicles need to be banned earlier. Council leaders in areas affected by roadside pollution, including Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Southampton, Leicestershire and Oxford, have written to the Environment Secretary calling for urgent legislation and a diesel scrappage scheme.
On the other hand, groups like the AA have warned that many vehicle owners may not be able to afford the transition to electric and hybrid vehicles. The National Grid have also stated that the UK is not ready for a mass transition to electric vehicles. A report from the National Grid estimates that peak demand for electricity would increase by 30 gigawatts – an increase of 50 per cent – which would require 10 nuclear power stations, or 10,000 more wind turbines, to be built.
The commitment is part of the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations. Produced jointly by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DERFA) and the Department for Transport (Dft), the Plan outlines how councils with the worst air pollution levels must take action. The Plan focusses on dealing with Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) levels at the roadside. Another plan, the Clean Air Strategy, will be published next year to tackle other sources of air pollution.
An analysis of Britain’s major roads shows that 81 are due to breach legal pollution levels. Perhaps surprisingly, 33 of these pollution hotspots are outside London. To address the problem councils will be required to produce initial plans within eight months, and their final plans by the end of next year. The Government will be providing £255 million to help local authorities implement their plans.
Measures that local authorities can take include altering road layouts, removing speed humps and retrofitting public transport. If more drastic action is needed, councils will be able to place restrictions on polluting vehicles on affected roads, such as preventing these vehicles using certain roads or charging congestion fees.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
“Today’s plan sets out how we will work with local authorities to tackle the effects of roadside pollution caused by dirty diesels, in particular nitrogen dioxide.
Improving air quality is about more than just transport, so next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy. This will set out how we will address all forms of air pollution, delivering clean air for the whole country.”