Government to announce end of the diesel and petrol car

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[The UK follows suit: all new vehicles must be fully electric by 2040. Of course, in terms of political time horizons, 23 years is effectively 'never' for today's government. Corporations are even worse than politicians as far as this goes, being driven by the results of the next quarterly report. *RON*]

Ben Webster, The Times, 26 July 2017

Ministers were forced to publish their plans to tackle air quality after a legal challenge by campaigners NICK ANSELL/PA
Sales of new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned from 2040, the government is to announce today.

The supply of new hybrid vehicles that have an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine will also end in a move that comes after a similar pledge this month by President Macron of France. Less than 1 per cent of new cars sold in Britain run solely on electric power.

The ban is part of a government plan to improve air quality. It includes £255 million to help local authorities to deal with toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from diesel vehicles.

The decision about electric vehicles came as:
  • BMW announced that its new electric Mini would be assembled in Britain, going into production in 2019 at its factory in Cowley in Oxford.
  • The company said that it had “neither sought nor received” reassurances from ministers on trade arrangements after Britain leaves the EU.
  • In a further boost after Brexit, Donald Trump promised to strike a “major” trade deal with Britain, leading to the creation of more jobs.
Under plans to be outlined today by Michael Gove, the environment secretary, dozens of councils with roads breaching legal limits for NO2 will be required to publish initial plans to cut emissions by the end of March and final proposals by the end of next year.

Councils will also be allowed to ban diesel vehicles in some polluted areas, Mr Gove said this morning. Ministers will leave it to councils to decide how to tackle the problem, which has angered air-quality campaigners who say that the only effective measure is to require cities to impose entry fees on diesel drivers.

Removing speed humps, reprogramming traffic lights and changing road layouts are among other measures available to town halls, Mr Gove will say.

Councils will be allowed to introduce charging zones if no other measure will cut pollution by the required amount but the government will guide them away from penalising diesel drivers.

Mr Gove said that charges were a “blunt instrument”. He told the Today programme on Radio 4: “I would prefer to use a series of surgical interventions because I think that’s fairer to drivers, but also likely to be more effective, more quickly, in the areas that count.”

The plan will include a commitment to hold a consultation on a scrappage scheme for older diesel vehicles, though will offer few details on how it might be funded. Mr Gove will announce that a “comprehensive clean-air strategy to tackle the full range of pollutants” will be published next year.

The High Court ordered the government to publish today’s plan after ruling that a previous version failed to comply with an EU directive to reduce emissions in the “shortest possible time”.

A report by the Royal College of Physicians last year estimated that air pollution — linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia — caused 40,000 premature deaths a year.

The announcement comes two weeks after Mr Macron pledged to outlaw the sale of vehicles that use an internal combustion engine from 2040. The government’s commitment to a similar ban is a strengthening of its previous position. The Conservative manifesto stated: “We want almost every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050.” Two weeks ago the government said that, for this target to be achieved, sales of new petrol and diesel cars would need to stop in 2040.

The air-quality plan announced today is part of a £3 billion programme, of which £2.7 billion had already been revealed, including £1 billion in grants for electric cars. The plan will state that poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in Britain and cost the country up to £2.7 billion in lost productivity in 2012. It is likely to be challenged in the High Court by the environmental group ClientEarth on the ground that it still does not comply with the legal obligation to reduce emissions in the shortest possible time.

A spokesman for ClientEarth, which brought the legal challenge that forced ministers to publish today’s plan, said: “The health issues caused by exposure to illegal air pollution are happening now, so we need urgent action.”

A government source conceded that the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 would have little impact on toxic emissions in the next few years. There are 38 local authorities with at least one road forecast “persistently to exceed NO2 legal limits” and which ministers say may require “additional measures”.

Most large cities are listed, including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol, and Southampton, but also rural and suburban authorities, such as New Forest and Surrey Heath.

A government spokesman said: “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.”

Mr Gove said he would work with any council which tabled a scrappage scheme which was “effective and [offered] value for money”.

Nick Robinson, the Today host, said Mr Gove was late for his interview because he was stuck in traffic.

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