The government has confirmed that it will end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 in order to tackle air pollution levels.
The UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, produced by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport, will focus on accelerating the reduction of nitrogen dioxide levels by asking local councils to produce initial plans to manage air quality within eight months, with finalised plans due by the end of the year.
The government will provide £255 million in funding to support these plans, in addition to the £2.7 billion that has already been invested in this area. Local authorities will also be able to bid for funding from a new Clean Air Fund. The funding aims to support changes such as adjusting road layouts to reduce congestion, removing traffic lights and speed humps, upgrading or retrofitting bus fleets, and encouraging the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).
In the autumn, the government will launch a consultation to gather feedback on measures to support motorists, residents, and businesses that will be affected by local plans. This could include gaining insight on measures such as retrofitting, subsidised car club membership, exemptions from any vehicle restrictions, and a targeted scrappage scheme for car and van drivers.
The government will publish a Clean Air Strategy in 2018 to address other sources of air pollution.
Michael Gove, environment secretary, said: “[The] 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.
“This is one element of the government’s £3 billion programme to clean up the air and reduce vehicle emissions. 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.”
Chris Grayling, transport secretary, added: “We are determined to deliver a green revolution in transport and reduce pollution in our towns and cities. We are taking bold action and want nearly every car and van on UK roads to be zero emission by 2050 which is why we’ve committed to investing more than £600 million in the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.”
Gerry Keaney, chief executive officer at the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), said: “The government’s 2040 zero-emission milestone provides a clear deadline for vehicle manufacturers and aligns with plans already outlined in other countries.
“It will have almost no impact on [nitrogen oxides] emissions here and now. It is what the government does in the short term to kick-start the transition and maintain its momentum that really matters. Any long-term zero-emission targets needs to be coordinated and underpinned by every localised, short-term strategy.
“We still believe that well-targeted scrappage schemes could make a significant contribution in reducing [nitrogen oxides] emissions by removing some of the oldest, most polluting cars and vans from our roads. We think car owners should be encouraged to look at more sustainable modes of transport, and the government should give them credits to use for car rental, car club memberships or public transport.”