Just weeks after France unveiled a plan to ban sales of gas and diesel cars by 2040, its neighbor to the north is following suit. Britain's government on Wednesday unveiled a nearly $4 billion plan to improve air quality that would see sales of new gas and diesel cars end by 2040. "Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible," a government rep says, per the Guardian. The plan, which includes few concrete promises, sets aside $1.3 billion in funding for ultra-low-emission vehicles, plus more for low-emission taxis, and nearly $1.6 billion to promote cycling and walking. Money is also designated to retrofit public transport and improve air quality on roadways.
Poor air quality, worsened by rising levels of nitrogen oxides from car exhaust, is tied to an estimated 40,000 deaths in the UK each year, including some 9,000 in London, plus billions in lost productivity, per the BBC. "We can't carry on with diesel and [gas] cars," UK environment secretary Michael Gove told the BBC, via CNNMoney. "There is no alternative to embracing new technology." But meeting the government's goal won't be an easy feat. Demand for electric, fuel cell, and hybrid cars spiked 40% in the UK in 2015, but those cars only made up less than 3% of the market. The CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders notes consumers still have "concerns over affordability, range, and charging points" for low-emission vehicles.