Opposition to diesel vehicles gets stronger

Exhaust fumes
Patrick Pleul/DPA Germany

After years of promoting diesel vehicles as the cleaner and more economical choice, governments around the world are turning their back on them after finally waking up to the environmental and health implications caused by their exhaust fumes.

After introducing a partial ban on diesel vehicles in March, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has called for a complete ban on diesel-powered cars in the French capital by 2020.

The announcement follows news that France is to introduce a new identification system for the most heavily polluting vehicles, and will use taxation as a means to coerce drivers into less environmentally damaging alternatives.

Part of Hidalgo's vision for Paris includes a greater number of pedestrian area and cycle lanes, with the city's main transport routes reserved for ultra-low emission vehicles. The plans are to be debated by the city council this week.

The majority of Parisians (54 per cent) would support a ban on diesel vehicles, a poll carried out for the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche found. In addition, car ownership in the city has shrunk down to 40 per cent from 60 per cent in 2001.

Any potential ban is likely to be mirrored on this side of the channel, as London mayor Boris Johnson aims to reduce pollution in the city, which is linked to around 60,000 premature deaths each year.

As part of his strategy, which Mr Johnson wants in place by 2020, the daily congestion charge for diesel vehicles is expected to be raised to £20 and cars registered before 2006 further penalised.

However, transport campaigners feel that such measures do not go far enough, and that a blanket ban on diesel vehicles in London is needed.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Stephen Joseph of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "I think the motor industry is wholly unprepared for the way in which the science is turning against diesels. The science is hardening up and it is showing different and serious health damage which is a really serious problem.

"London is very polluted and busy. Where Paris goes London won't be far behind - London is already talking about an ultra low emission zone, banning all sorts of diesel vehicles, it is not unlikely that they will banned altogether in the same way Paris has done."

According to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London, along with Birmingham and Leeds, will be subject to dangerously high levels of air pollution until at least 2030 unless stricter rules are imposed.