The mayors of Athens, Madrid and Paris have agreed to ban all diesel-powered cars and trucks from their streets within 10 years.
They made the commitment during the C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico in a move hailed as a ‘market-shifting commitment’.
The officials said they were acting in the interests of public health, as 3 million deaths worldwide each year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and new chairman of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, said: ‘We no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes – particularly for our most vulnerable citizens. Big problems like air pollution require bold action.’
She also backed a petition which called on car manufacturers to end production of diesel vehicles by 2025 to support a fast transition to hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles.
Mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis went one step further, saying that his goal was to remove cars from the centre of the city altogether.
The group called on national governments to commit to the swift implementation of climate action agreements.
Last week, London mayor Sadiq Khan announced he was phasing out diesel from the London bus fleet, starting in 2018. He has also introduced a low-emission zone, but has so far stopped short of banning diesel cars.
Autovista Intelligence warned earlier this year in its Diesel Intelligence report that legislative change at a local level represents a substantial future risk for carmakers.
Whereas national governments tend to take a long-term approach to legislation, cities and local authorities are more likely to introduce much swifter changes.
Some local authorities have started to introduce immediate bans on the procurement of diesel vehicles for their own fleets.
This increases the importance of OEMs maintaining close contacts with national and local government leaders to keep informed about changes that are likely to affect vehicle demand.
A city-wide ban will suppress demand for diesel vehicles and drive down regional used car prices, although there will still be a market for them in surrounding urban and rural areas where a ban is not in force.
The report also argues that OEMs need to take control of the diesel debate and promote the benefits of the latest Euro 6 diesel engines to counter sweeping generalisations about ‘dirty diesel’.
The use of diesel in transport has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, particularly following the diesel emissions crisis, which revealed that real-world emissions of new cars are up to 30% higher than under test conditions.
Diesels are the focus of debate because they have higher emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, which have been linked to respiratory and heart problems.
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