Britain to Ban New Diesel and Gas Cars by 2040 to Combat Air Pollution Crisis

Victoria Embankment in London. There are rising concerns over air pollution in Britain, particularly in large cities. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Scrambling to combat a growing air pollution crisis, Britain announced on Wednesday that sales of new diesel and gas cars would reach the end of the road by 2040, the latest step in Europe’s battle against the damaging environmental impact of the internal combustion engine.

Britain’s plans match a similar pledge made this month by France, and are part of a growing global push to curb emissions and fight climate change by promoting electric cars. Carmakers are also adjusting, with Volvo notably saying recently that it would phase out the internal combustion engine in coming years and BMW deciding to build an electric version of its popular Mini car in Britain.

But the shift to electric vehicles will be a gradual one, and the target set by Britain is less ambitious than efforts elsewhere. President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord has also dented optimism.

Britain’s new clean air strategy, published on Wednesday, calls for sales of new gas and diesel cars and vans to end by 2040. The government will also make more than 200 million pounds, or $260 million, available for local governments to take short-term action, such as retrofitting buses, to reduce air pollution.

“It is important that we all gear up for a significant change which deals not just with the problems to health caused by emissions but the broader problems caused in terms of accelerating climate change,” Michael Gove, the country’s environment secretary, said in an interview with the BBC.

“We can’t carry on with diesel and petrol cars, not just because of the health problems that they cause, but also because the emissions that they cause would mean that we would accelerate climate change.”

Mr. Gove called on local councils to use the funds to “accelerate” their efforts to improve air quality and “come up with an imaginative solution” to the problem.

The strategy document was published after a protracted legal battle in which ministers were ordered by the courts to produce new plans to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide.

In France, the promise to end sales of traditional cars was made as part of a renewed commitment to the Paris climate change accord.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Stephen Castle

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