Paris, Copenhagen and Oxford announced bans on petrol and diesel cars this week.
Paris will ban all petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars by 2030, a decade ahead of France’s 2040 target. Copenhagen plans to ban diesel cars from 2019, while Oxford has proposed banning all non-electric vehicles from its centre from 2020. This would make central Oxford the world’s first zero-emissions zone, officials believe.
The public health risk from polluted air is the main reason for the bans, according to city officials.
Nitrogen dioxide is released from car exhausts and can cause serious respiratory diseases. In the UK, diesel cars and vans account for more than half of all roadside nitrogen oxide levels.
“It’s not a human right to pollute the air for others,” Copenhagen’s mayor Frank Jensen told Danish newspaper Politiken.
“That’s why diesel cars must be phased out.”
The ban would “mean something for the many, many Copenhageners that are affected by respiratory illnesses”, Mr Jensen said.
“Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford’s residents,” said Councillor John Tanner of Oxford City Council.
“A step change is urgently needed.”
The zero-emissions zone would gradually expand to cover the whole city centre by 2035, in proposals outlined by the council.
Oxford was one of 11 British cities revealed last year to exceed the safe limits for toxic particles, according to the World Health Organisation.
Sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, including hybrids, will be banned in the UK from 2040.
Paris’ City Hall said in a statement that in order for France to reach its 2040 target of banning cars dependent on fossil fuels, bigger cities had to phase out cars sooner.
Paris already has car-free days, car-free zones and fines for drivers using cars more than 20 years old. On 1 October, the most recent car-free day, nitrogen dioxide levels dropped 25 per cent and noise levels dropped by an average of 20 per cent.
Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo told the Journal du Dimanche in January that she wants to “reconquer the public space” for cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-polluting vehicles.
“This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases”, said Christophe Najdovski, a transport policy official at Paris City Hall.
“Transport is one of the main greenhouse gas producers…so we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles, or fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030”, he told France Info radio.
Additional reporting by Reuters