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The Government's plan to ban new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 has been dismissed as a smokescreen for weak action on vehicle pollution in past years.

The policy announcement came following further evidence that nitrogen oxide emitted is cutting lives short, and a similar pledge to cut petrol and diesel vehicles was announced by Emmanuel Macron's government in France earlier this month.

Former leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband tweeted:

The Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman accused ministers of a "betrayal", calling for the deadline to occur much sooner, in 2025.

Areeba Hamid, a clean air campaigner at Greenpeace UK told the Independent:

We cannot wait nearly a quarter of a century for real action to tackle the public health emergency caused by air pollution.

It means that children across the UK will continue to be exposed to harmful air pollution for years to come, with potentially irreversible impacts.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that plans to introduce charges for vehicles to enter "clean air zones," which had been proposed as an effective solution by the government, would be thrown out:

I don’t believe that it is necessary to bring in charging, but we will work with local authorities in order to determine what the best approach is.

I would prefer to use a series of surgical interventions.

That’s both fairer to drivers and also likely to be more effective, more quickly in the areas that count.

Gove insisted he was taking action to tackle air pollution by handing councils £255m for the cause.

A report from the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatric and Child Health said in February 2016 that outdoor air pollution was poorly controlled and contributing to around 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

While the report didn't attribute these numbers as direct causes of death, they said that toxic air was cutting lives short and making them harder to live:

The annual mortality burden in the UK from exposure to outdoor air pollution is equivalent to around 40,000 deaths.

It is more accurate to refer to the loss of life in terms of lives shortened than deaths caused - as some critics have previously discussed.

Anthony Frew, a professor in respiratory medicine expert at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School told EnergyDesk:

People don’t live forever. If you stop them dying, you don’t prevent their death, you postpone it.

The committee knew when it published this study that there was a risk of it being overinterpreted – and in my view that is what has happened. Although statistically it is the best way of looking at it, the basic data does not say that 40,000 people have died.

The public discussion has shorthanded the whole issue.

It is, however, important to point out he does agree that air pollution does cause a loss of life, both in terms of time and mortality.

There is loss of life from air pollution but the discussion of deaths isn’t helpful – we should be talking about the impact on people’s lives.

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