UK government plans to tackle air pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) published on 26 July 2017 include a new Clean Air Fund and ending the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

According to Public Health England, poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, despite air quality having improved significantly in recent decades.

The UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations produced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport outlines how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots need to take rapid action.

A recent analysis has shown that four per cent of Britain’s roads are due to breach legal pollution limits for NO2, the majority of these being outside London.

Announcing the plans, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are taking bold action and want nearly every car and van on UK roads to be zero emission by 2050."

To accelerate action, local areas will be asked to produce initial plans within eight months and final plans by the end of next year. Local authorities will be able to bid for money from a £255 million implementation fund to support improvements which will reduce the need for restrictions on polluting vehicles. This could include changing road layouts, removing traffic lights and speed humps, or upgrading bus fleets.

If the recommended measures are not sufficient to ensure legal compliance, local authorities can consider introducing restrictions on polluting vehicles using affected roads or introducing charging.

The implementation fund is in addition to a new Clean Air Fund for which details are to be announced later in the year. It will enable councils to bid for money to introduce new measures such as changing road layouts to cut congestion and reduce idling vehicles, new park and ride services, introducing concessionary travel schemes and improving bus fleets.

The NO2 plan is part of a wider programme which is to include a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy in the year to come.The government is also investing more than £600 million in the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.

The UK is one of 17 EU countries breaching annual targets for nitrogen dioxide, a problem which has been made worse by the failure of the European testing regime for vehicle emissions.