The mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have pledged to ban the use of all diesel-powered cars and trucks in their cities by 2025.
The commitments were made at a biennial meeting of city leaders in Mexico last night.
They said they will give incentives for alternative vehicle use and promote walking and cycling.
Asked if any similar policies would be pursued in Ireland, a spokeswoman for the Department of Climate Action and Environment said it would shortly be publishing a consultation paper on a clean air strategy that would “seek initiatives across the relevant sectors including transport”.
The process will aim to identify short, medium and long-term goals for reducing pollution. However, the department could not yet point to any specific actions that will be taken.
Responding to the decision taken by the various cities, James Nix, director of Green Budget Europe, said the perceived environmental advantages of diesel had been eroded in recent years as petrol engines became more efficient and it became clear the emissions figures for diesel engines were misleading.
“What has become graphically clear since ‘dieselgate’, is that diesel car manufacturers were lying. They are emitting four to five times more, and even with new diesel cars, than they should be.
Mr Nix said the size of the diesel fleet in Ireland was a “complete outlier in European terms” as about 70 per cent of all new car sales in Ireland were diesel compared with a European average of 50 per cent.
“Without the investment base here we will not be able to migrate on to cleaner transport and we are going to be stuck with very high levels of childhood asthma and other ailments that really, there is absolutely no need for in this day and age.”
Alan Nolan, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, said “Dublin City Council is probably the most resistant to doing anything to improve Dublin’s CO2 emissions levels.
“It seems to want to clog up traffic and does not do anything to support the rollout of electric cars. We need to see some action in that department also.”
Mr Nolan called for a wider and longer review of how Ireland deals with the issue of diesel emissions over the next 10 years.
Ireland, like many other countries, has a more favourable tax regime in place for diesel cars as they produce fewer of the CO2 emissions that are contributing to climate change.
Diesel engines have come under increasing scrutiny as concerns about the impact of diesel emissions on air quality have grown.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said around three million deaths every year were linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
Diesel engines produce particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine PM particles can penetrate the lungs and can contribute to cardiovascular illness and death.
Nitrogen oxides can lead to breathing difficulties, even for people without a history of respiratory problems.
Source: The Irish Times