New petrol and diesel cars are set to be banned from 2040 as part of a new air quality plan that now includes a consultation on a 'targeted' diesel scrappage scheme.
Under a High Court ruling last year, which ruled the Government’s existing plan to tackle air pollution to be illegal, ministers were required to publish a new plan by the end of this month.
A draft plan, which ministers were forced to publish before the General Election, was widely criticised for putting too much emphasis on local authorities to decide what action to take.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove
Reports on Wednesday morning said the final plan will similarly allow councils to bring in charging clean air zones by 2020 as a last resort but will urge them to try other measures first, such as retrofitting vehicles, changing road layouts and removing speed humps.
It has also been reported that councils will be given £255m to assist them, including reprogramming traffic lights.
A Government spokesman said: ‘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.
‘That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3bn programme to clean up dirty air around our roads.’
Ministers are said to have identified 81 major roads in 17 towns and cities where urgent action is required because they are in breach of EU regulations on nitrogen oxide pollution, which mainly comes from road transport.
AA spokesman Jack Cousens said the organisation was pleased to see a scrappage scheme floated.
He said: ‘The ambition to stop the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 is a step in the right direction. But there are plenty of factors that need to be addressed along the way.
‘Eight out of 10 drivers say they want clean air, but they are sceptical that, should Clean Air Zones be implemented in cities across the UK, they would be introduced fairly as car drivers are not the only source of air pollution.
‘Clean Air Zones should be the port of last resort, rather than the position of first response.’