Drivers of diesel cars could be forced to pay a daily fee for entering the ultra-low emission zone, which is to be established in central London by 2020.
The charge for entering the zone, designed to help the UK capital comply with emission reduction targets, is estimated to cost about the same as the current £11.50 congestion charge.
"When it comes to tackling London's air pollution, and protecting the health and well-being of all Londoners, diesel cars are an issue which must be addressed,” said Matthew Pencharz, an environment and energy adviser to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
“Over recent years the European diesel engine standards have not delivered the emission savings expected, yet governments have been incentivising us to buy them. This has left us with a generation of dirty diesels," Pencharz said, stating it is necessary for the government to stop incentives that keep driving people to opt for diesel cars.
The ultra-low emission zone, proposed last year by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is still subject to full consultation but it is expected that all diesel cars not meeting the new standards would be subject to the charge.
However, motoring organisations were less than happy with the proposed scheme.
"This isn't quite a miss-selling scandal, but for years ministers took their eye off the ball and encouraged drivers to buy diesels to help fight climate change,” said RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister. “That has come at a cost: local air pollution. Today 10 million cars in Britain are powered by diesel engines - a third of the total.”
According to Glaister the major problem is that although in laboratory conditions diesel cars can meet strict criteria, in real life their performance, when it comes to pollution, is far less satisfying.
AA president Edmund King said that by no means are personal cars, even the diesel-powered ones, the major culprit of air pollution in London. Compared with buses, taxis and trucks, personal cars are rather harmless, King believes.
"The first move should be to target the gross polluters and get them off our roads in order to have a greater and more immediate impact on air quality," King said.
"Drivers are confused as to what vehicles to buy due to mixed fiscal messages from governments over the last decade or so. The goal posts seem to have moved from CO2 (carbon dioxide) to NOx (nitrogen oxides) without fully informing the players.”
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has pledged to fight air pollution in London for the sake of the city’s inhabitants. Among the concepts put forward to tackle the issue are fleets of zero-emission capable taxis and low-emission, even electric, buses. By 2020, about 300 fully electric buses should be serving in the streets of London.
Boris Johnson said today: "Improving London's air quality is an urgent challenge. It affects the health and well-being of all Londoners, and it simply cannot be put on hold.
"Here at City Hall we are doing everything in our power to address it. At the heart of this are my plans for the world's first ULEZ in central London from 2020. This will be a game-changer, but with just a little more energy, ambition and action from Westminster and from Brussels, London can meet the EU limits for NO2 by 2020. It is possible, and together we can make it happen."
Hybrid taxis using solar power to charge their batteries are among possible options to tackle pollution in London, watch our video: