diesel exhaust

UK’s 2040 ban for diesel and petrol cars ‘lacks ambition’, MPs say

MPs have criticised the government for lacking ambition over its plans to ban the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars from 2040.

The policy was originally announced last July under new rules designed to tackle air pollution.

In a joint report the Commons’ Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Committees warned that this did not do enough to address the issue.

“There is insufficient urgency in current policies to accelerate vehicle fleet renewal,” it reads.

“Whilst we welcome the government’s commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, this target lacks sufficient ambition.

“It is too distant to produce a step-change in industry and local government planning and falls far behind similar commitments from other countries.”

Air pollution is estimated to result in the deaths of 40,000 people every year, costing the UK around £20bn.

Concerns over nitrogen dioxide emissions have grown since Volkswagen was found in September 2015 to have cheated air pollution tests for 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

Rail Minister Jo Johnson also recently said he wants to get rid of diesel-only trains by 2040 while France has pledged to phase out all oil and gas production by the same date.

The report urges the government to determine the earliest date that manufacturers must only sell alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) in the UK and also called for the automotive industry to contribute to a new clean air fund.

The unprecedented joint inquiry was launched amid concerns over the government’s air quality plans, which have repeatedly been successfully challenged in the courts by environmental groups.

Recent figures show that the proportion of new diesel cars bought last year fell from 47 per cent in 2016 to just 37.8 per cent last year. Petrol held a market share of 56.6 per cent, while 5.6 per cent were AFVs.

Automotive industry leaders have accused ministers of having an anti-diesel agenda, which they claim is leading to motorists delaying the replacement of their older and more polluting cars with modern and cleaner models.

MPs accepted that determining the earliest date for a UK ban would have to balance the health impacts of air pollution with “economic and practical considerations”.

The committees urged the government to force the automotive industry to put money into a new fund to improve air quality.

They also called for a Clean Air Act to “enshrine the right to clean air in UK law” and a national air quality support programme for councils.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said latest government reports show there have been improvements in air quality but he accepted that “more needs to be done”.

He went on: “Road transport is a major contributor which is why the UK automotive industry is investing billions in technology and other measures to help address the challenge.

“We should not divert investment away from the development of new, low emission vehicles as the fastest improvement to air quality in our towns and cities will be through the uptake of the latest technology.”

A Government spokesman said: “By ending the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040, the UK is going further than almost every other European nation.

“Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010, but we recognise there is more to do which is why we have a £3.5bn plan to reduce harmful emissions. We will set out further actions through a comprehensive clean air strategy later this year.

“We will carefully consider the joint committee’s report and respond in due course.”

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