The Government’s plan to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 has been dismissed as a “smokescreen”, with ministers accused of condemning people to living with killer air for years to come.
Green groups and opposition politicians united in criticism after it emerged that key policies to cut the estimated 40,000 premature deaths from toxic air every year had been dumped.
A plan for a Government-led “scrappage scheme” – to get diesel cars off Britain’s roads quickly – has been rejected as poor value for money, it emerged.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, also shelved proposals to charge drivers to enter the most-polluted towns and cities, shifting the responsibility on to local councils and imposing tests.
The missing elements of the long-awaited air quality plan became clear after Mr Gove grabbed the headlines with a repeated announcement that new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be outlawed in 23 years’ time.
Areeba Hamid, a clean air campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
“We cannot wait nearly a quarter of a century for real action to tackle the public health emergency caused by air pollution.
“It means that children across the UK will continue to be exposed to harmful air pollution for years to come, with potentially irreversible impacts.”
Anna Heslop, a lawyer for ClientEarth, said:
“They need to be doing things in the coming weeks and months that are going to fix the problem of polluted air in towns and cities around the UK.”
Hinting at future court action, she added:
“We will be holding the Government to account on this. They have been in breach of these limits for seven years – and we will continue to do that.”
Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, tweeted:
“Fear that new car petrol/diesel ban in 23 years time is smokescreen for weak measures to tackle 40,000 deaths a year from air pollution now.”
And Jenny Randerson, the Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman, accused ministers of “betrayal”, calling for all new diesel sales to end much faster, by 2025.
Read more: The Independent