Owners of diesel cars should be given up to £2,000 to turn them into scrap and improve air quality in London, Boris Johnson has claimed.
The Mayor of London called for the Government to reward drivers of the most polluting diesel vehicles for switching to cleaner alternatives, to help the capital meet European clean air targets.
Mr Johnson has already announced plans to introduce an extra £10 fee for drivers entering the central London congestion charge zone from 2020 to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee of MPs, he said the Government should help tackle local pollution hot spots and fund a transition to zero-emission buses and taxis.
People who were “seduced into buying a diesel vehicle” by tax incentivesshould now be given £1,000 to £2,000 to encourage them to switch to cleaner models, he said.
“They now feel very hacked off now they’re told they are more polluting.”
The Mayor also proposed a controversial plan for “workplace parking levies” in London, which would charge companies for each parking space they use, and a “geo-fencing” virtual zone within which hybrid cars would automatically switch to electric power.
Mr Johnson published new research on Wednesday, commissioned by City Hall, which ranked London 15th of 36 major cities for clean air, refuting previous claims it is one of the most polluted in Europe.
But MPs told the Mayor he needed to do more to improve air quality in London. Joan Walley, the chair of the committee, said the £10 levy “will leave many Londoners to suffer potentially serious health consequences simply because of where they live or work.”
Earlier on Wednesday Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, announced a said a Labour government would help local authorities outside of London introduce low emission zones.
Councils across the country are facing fines from the EU due to pollution levels which cause 29,000 premature deaths each year, she said.
But her comments prompted concerns among motoring groups who said they would amount to “either a charge or a complete ban or penalty” for diesel drivers.
Paul Watters, head of Roads Policy at the AA, said any such scheme should give drivers eight to 10 years’ notice before penalties are introduced, and be complimented by a scrappage schemes.
“To suddenly throw the switch too quickly would upset the car market and upset drivers and introduce extra costs or a ban, and either one is not going to be very popular,” he said.