London (AFP) - Britain will outlaw the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040 in a bid to cut air pollution, the government was set to announce later Wednesday.
Enviroment minister Michael Gove is due to present the government's keenly-awaited £3 billion ($3.9 billion, 3.4 billion euro) air pollution plan, which is expected to demand that councils propose measures by March next year to reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, according to British media reports.
The ban on petrol and diesel cars as well as vans follows a similar proposal by the French government, and will also include hybrid vehicles that have an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine.
Britain's High Court demanded that the government produce plans to tackle illegal NO2 pollution, largely caused by diesel emissions, and a draft report was published in May, but the full report was delayed by last month's snap general election.
The government will provide local councils with £255 million to bring NO2 levels to legal levels, with possible solutions including the removal of speed humps, reprogramming traffic lights and changing road layouts.
Campaigners want cities to impose entry fees on diesel drivers, but councils will only be allowed to do so if no other measures are available, with ministers wary of "punishing" drivers of cars who bought their vehicles in good faith, according to the reports.
"Diesel drivers are not to blame and, to help them switch to cleaner vehicles, the government will consult on a targeted scrappage scheme, one of a number of measures to support motorists affected by local plans," said a government spokesman.
ClientEarth, the campaign group that brought the case, arguing that a previous set of plans were insufficient to meet EU pollution limits, warned that health issues "caused by exposure to illegal air pollution are happening now, so we need urgent action."
Air pollution contributes to the death of more than 40,000 people per year in Britain, according to official figures, with nitrogen dioxide a particular problem.