The UK government has unveiled its plans for cleaner air.
Poor air quality is viewed by ministers as being the greatest environmental risk to public health, being responsible for up to 40,000 premature deaths per year and costing the country's economy £2.7 billion in lost productivity in just one year.
The plan to end all sales of new diesel and petrol powered cars by 2040 puts the UK in line with France's new President, Emanuel Macron, who took the same step to help his country meet its emissions targets under the Paris climate agreement. The UK will invest £100 million into the UK's charging infastructure for electric vehicles and to fund grants for plug-in cars. Funding will also be available for low-carbon buses, there will be £100 million to improve air quality on roads and £1.2 billion to be invested ion encouraging walking and cycling, rather than car use for shorter journeys.
Whilst the final plan has been described by environmental lawyers as "much weaker than hoped for", it does give a clear signal that the internal combustion engine's future is finite, with 23 years to go until the last ever cars and vans powered by fossil fuels are produced. This firm commitment to a date, whilst still distant at the moment, will encourage motor manufacturers to invest more heavily in the technology needed for developing zero-emission vehicles. It will also mean that timetables can be drawn up for the huge infrastructure changes that will be needed to switch private transport from being driven mostly by fossil fuels to being powered by batteries and other zero-emission technologies yet to be developed. For example, in the coming years, we will see petrol stations gradually transitioning into charging stations.
Photo by Andy D'Agorne