Back in the old days when cars had carburetors and the exhaust fumes from the car ahead of you were so strong you could smell them, people who wanted an early exit from the rigors of life would simply roll down the garage door, start the engine, and go peacefully to their eternal rest, thanks to the toxic stew spewing out of the tailpipe of their internal combustion powered car. Now 50 years later, people are beginning to realize that civilization has been doing pretty much the same thing to itself but on a more gradual basis.

air pollution from cars with internal combustion engines

After much controversy and travails in the British courts over the past several months, the government of Britain has finally unveiled a plan to address the problem, a plan that includes an outright ban on the sale of cars and light duty trucks with internal combustion engines after the year 2040. Earlier this month, France announced a similar proposal that also takes effect in 2040.

“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,” a government spokesman said. “That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3 billion program to clean up dirty air around our roads.”

The plan will target areas in which air quality is already below EU standards in hopes of turning them into so-called “clean air zones.” The money would go toward retrofitting or replacing diesel buses and altering roadways to reduce congestion. The timing of traffic lights will be altered to promote the smoother flow of traffic. Special levies similar to London’s T Charge — which assess up to 10,000 of the cities oldest and dirtiest vehicles an extra fee of £10 a day — may be implemented in other parts of the country.

A scrappge plan similar to the infamous Cash For Clunkers program in the US may be part of the mix as well.  A spokesperson for the City of London said, “We need to look at the full details but what Londoners suffering from the terrible health impacts of air pollution desperately need is a fully-funded diesel scrappage fund – and they need it right now.”

Prof David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Aston University, said: “The time scale involved here is sufficiently long-term to be taken seriously. If enacted it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers of the direction of travel and may accelerate a transition to electric cars.” The final plan is due to be announced before the end of the year.

ClientEarth, a public interest group that has been challenging the government in the courts , gave a cautious welcome to the announcement but said ministers must take immediate action to tackle the UK’s air pollution crisis. “The government has trumpeted some promising measures with its air quality plans, but we need to see the detail,” said CEO James Thornton. “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.”

Areeba Hamid, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “The high court was clear that the government must bring down toxic air pollution in the UK in the shortest possible time. This plan is still miles away from that. The government cannot shy away any longer from the issue of diesel cars clogging up and polluting our cities and must now provide real solutions, not just gimmicks. That means proper clean air zones and funding to support local authorities to tackle illegal and unsafe pollution.”

Source: The Guardian