The UK announced plans to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles starting in 2040, following a similar commitment from France, as part of Britain’s broader clean air plan. The government said the move was necessary because of the impact of poor air quality on people’s health. Ministers have said it represents the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK, recently costing 2.7 billion pounds in lost productivity over a year.

A £255m fund will be created to help with local measures to deal with diesel pollution, as part of a larger £3bn package to address air quality issues.

Some critics said the ban was “too little too late,” and the Liberal Democrats suggested diesel sales should end by 2025.

Energy secretary and former Labour leader Ed Miliband called the measure a “smokescreen” to hide the lack of more immediate actions.

The move comes as electric vehicles have begun to gain more traction than ever before. Last Tuesday, BMW announced their plans for an electric Mini, and earlier in the month, Volvo announced plans to produce lower emission vehicles. Environmental advocates had argued in court that earlier plans were not adequate to keep pollution under EU limits, and the government was ordered to step up plans to address harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The government had hoped to publish the pans after the general election, but was forced to announce the plans in May, with final plans due by the end of July.

They are also expected to consider a diesel scrappage scheme to take the dirtiest vehicles off the road as soon as possible.

Environmental advocates have called for mandated clean air zones, with charges to heavily polluting vehicles to enter high pollution areas. An assessment published with the draft plans also supported such a measure to address nitrogen dioxide, which is emitted mainly by diesel vehicles. However, minsters are reluctant to punish drivers of diesel vehicles, who purchased diesel vehicles with encouragement from the last Labour government, due to their lower carbon emissions.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Jenny Randerson criticized the move, saying:

“Air pollution is poisoning our children and leading to causing avoidable deaths across the country. Instead of properly fighting this silent killer the government has flip-flopped, offering tax breaks for cars that they are now banning. The Government’s feeble attempts to tackle air pollution are too little too late.”

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