The UK will become the latest European country to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars from 2040 as part of efforts to tackle air pollution, the government has announced.
It follows a similar announcement earlier this month by the French government, while German cities including Stuttgart and Munich have also said they are considering banning diesel vehicles.
The British government has also been under pressure to take steps to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups.
Speaking on BBC Radio, environmental secretary Michael Gove, said that all newly bought cars would have to be fully electric within a quarter of a century.
“Today we are confirming that that means there should be no new diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040,” he said.
“It’s important we all gear up for a significant change which deals not only just with the problems to health caused by emissions but the broader problems caused in terms of accelerating climate change.”
Responding to the annoucement, Richard Burnett, Road Haulage Association chief executive, said that any planned restrictions on using certain lorries and any associated punishment taxes must be carefully phased in or risk harming businesses.
“The industry is already taking action through the rapid up take of ultra-low emissions Euro VI lorries,” he said.
“Moving in a single step toward mandating Euro VI in all urban areas will be very damaging for UK businesses and will have a negligible air quality impact in many cases.”
Around 152bn tonnes of goods were moved around the UK by 26.8bn heavy goods vehicles last year, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) 2017 logistics report.
SM is awaiting a response from the FTA but in a Twitter post the association said: “Awaiting govt’s air quality plan and the implications for freight.”
Ministers were forced to republish their air pollution plans before the end of July after two legal actions by activist lawyers ClientEarth.
The High Court ruled that previous plans stating the government's aim “for almost every car and van to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050” failed to comply with an EU directive to cut emissions in the “shortest time possible”.
However, critics have said the 2040 ban is “too little too late”, with the Liberal Democrats calling for new diesel sales to end by 2025 and a scrappage scheme to help drivers convert to greener vehicles.
Frederik Dahlmann, assistant professor of Global Energy at Warwick Business School, said although the move was a step in the right direction, questions remained about short-term plans to reduce improve air quality.
“While long-term planning and certainty are important, the need to address climate change and pollution related health concerns are important issues for today,” he said.
Areeba Hamid, clean-air campaigner at Greenpeace UK said the new targets were not ambitious enough compared to other countries.
“Germany, India, the Netherlands and Norway are all considering bans by 2030 or sooner,” he said.
“We cannot wait nearly a quarter of a century for real action to tackle the public health emergency caused by air pollution."
However, Gove insisted that the government was taking immediate action by making £255m available to local authorities to help “accelerate their progress”.
He said the plan was to urge local councils to reduce emissions by retrofitting diesel buses and other public transport with filters, changing road layouts and removing roundabouts and speed humps.
“What we’re saying to local authorities is: Come up with an imaginative solution to these proposals,” he said.
He added that he favoured road-by-road restrictions for diesel vehicles rather than outright bans from town centres or costly vehicle scrappage schemes but did not rule them out entirely if they were local authorities’ preferred options.
Meanwhile, BMW announced plans for their fully electric version of the Mini to be assembled at its Cowley plant in Oxford.
The carmaker said model would go into production in 2019, with Oxford the main production location for the Mini three-door model.
Sweden’s Volvo Car Group has announced that by 2019 all of its cars will have an electric motor.
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