UK mayors have called for the government’s proposed 2040 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be brought forward by a decade.

A cross-party group, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, West Midlands mayor Andy Street and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said introducing the ban on conventionally-fuelled vehicles in 2030 would do more to cut pollution and the chronic health problems caused by poor air quality.

The group also demanded an enhanced Clean Air Fund from government and vehicle manufacturers to support Clean Air Zones, a national vehicle renewal scheme to replace older polluting vehicles, and a Clean Air Act that sets strict air quality limits.

They estimated poor air quality contributes to more than 40,000 premature deaths across the country each year and claimed phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles would lead to a 30% reduction in pollution in 2030.

Khan said, “Our country’s filthy air is shortening lives, damaging lungs, and severely impacting on the NHS. That’s why we’re bringing together city leaders from across England and Wales to put this at the top of the agenda. 

“Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, providing support to deliver Clean Air Zones in cities and introducing a national vehicle renewal scheme will dramatically improve our air quality and our health.”

Street added: “We need to shift away from diesel as a matter of urgency and I will be an ally for decision-makers, especially those in national government, who seek to find a way to support ordinary people getting newer cleaner cars to replace their dirty old ones.”

Reacting to the prospect of the ban being brought forward, Paul Holland, chief operating officer at fuel card provider Fleetcor, said the government must not forget the potential impact of such a move on fleet operators.

He said, “Calls to bring the ban of new sales of diesel and petrol vehicles forward by a decade are indicative of growing momentum to reduce the environmental impact of the existing profile of vehicles across fleet and road transport activities. 

“However, it is crucial that the government considers the practical realities of doing so for businesses, particularly when so many rely on a fleet of vehicles for fundamental business operations.

“Fleetcor continues to work with existing providers of alternative fuels, along with exploring other opportunities, but cost, availability, sustainability and supporting infrastructure of such technologies continue to require greater development before alternative fuels can be considered both economically and environmentally viable on a broad basis.”

Holland welcomed the proposal for a scrappage scheme to encourage a carefully-managed transition to low-emission vehicles, but added, “This should be seen as just one part of a much wider discussion which needs to be had with a larger number of stakeholders, across different industry sectors about the future and impact of alternative fuel adoption.”