Britain is to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxide pose a major risk to public health.
The commitment, which follows a similar pledge in France, is part of the government’s much-anticipated clean air plan, which has been at the heart of a protracted high court legal battle.
The decision to phase out the internal combustion engine heralds a new era of low-emission technologies with major implications for the auto industry, society and the environment.
“We can’t carry on with diesel and petrol cars,” U.K. environment secretary Michael Gove told in a statement on Wednesday. “There is no alternative to embracing new technology.”
Gove said the government’s air quality plan, which is set to be officially announced later on Wednesday, was needed because gasoline and diesel engines contribute to health problems, “accelerate climate change, do damage to the planet and the next generation.”
The final plan, which was due by the end of July, comes after a draft report that environmental lawyers described as “much weaker than hoped for”.
The environment secretary, Michael Gove, will be hoping for a better reception when he publishes the final document on Wednesday following months of legal wrangling.
Reprogramming traffic lights will also be included in local plans, with councils being given £255m to accelerate their efforts. Local emissions hotspots will be required to layout their plans by March 2018 and finalise them by the end of the year. A targeted scrappage scheme is also expected to be included.