Should cars that pollute the most pay up?

The newly elected mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recently announced a new plan to fight air pollution. One of the biggest changes he intends to make is requiring owners of the worst-polluting cars pay a fee to drive in central London.

Khan also plans to extend the already-in-place “ultra-low emission” zone to cover a larger part of the city. With this new plan, Khan aims to fight the deadly air pollution infesting London’s streets.

According to The Guardian, 9,500 people die each year in London as a result of air pollution. Diesel vehicles are cited as a primary polluter, but their numbers are increasing. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of licensed diesel vehicles in the city rose by 29 percent. Khan’s fee implementation could help decrease that number.

“If we are to clean up air pollution, then government needs to recognise that diesel is the primary cause of the problem, and to promote a shift to alternatives.” said head of environment and energy for policy exchange, Richard Howard.

While air pollution is still a bigger problem in other countries (the U.S recently ranked low on an air pollution by country ranking), the United States is still at risk, especially in cities like Bakersfield, California, and the Los Angeles area. With 47 percent of Americans living in areas with poor air quality, implementing a system similar to London’s could help decrease air pollution.

Should the worst-polluting cars be forced to pay fees? Although it could discourage the use of high-polluting vehicles, a plan like this may not work quite as well in the United States. A Jalopnik report found that the average American cannot afford to buy a new car. Combine this with the fact that Americans seem to be keeping their cars much longer than they used to, and a fee system may not be as effective in the U.S at decreasing air pollution.

So hats off to Londoners for their plan, but it looks like the United States will need to find a different way to reduce pollution. We have our own ideas.

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