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Rome, one of Europe’s most traffic-clogged cities and home to thousands of ancient outdoor monuments threatened by pollution, plans to ban diesel cars from the centre by 2024, its mayor said.
Virginia Raggi announced the decision on her Facebook page on Tuesday, saying: “If we want to intervene seriously, we have to have the courage to adopt strong measures”.
Her comments followed a court ruling in Germany that cities there can ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets.
About two-thirds of the 1.8 million new cars sold in Italy last year were diesel, according to industry figures. Rome has no major industries, so nearly all of the air pollution in the Italian capital is caused by motor vehicles.
The city regularly tries to ban older, more polluting vehicles from roads on days when pollution reaches critical levels. It has also tried to reduce pollution by allowing only cars whose number plates end in either odd or even numbers to circulate on alternate days.
But both regulations are widely flouted and lightly enforced by traffic police. To skirt the alternate days regulation, many families buy a used car with a different number plate.
The announcement by Raggi comes a day after a court ruled that German cities can ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets, a move that could accelerate a shift away from the combustion engine and force manufacturers to pay to improve exhaust systems.
Diesel usage has already been in decline in Europe for several years with carmakers under increasing pressure to return to petrol engines while stepping up the development of electric vehicles.
If we want to intervene seriously, we have to have the courage to adopt strong measures Virginia Raggi, Rome mayor
Two days ago, Britain's Financial Times said Italian-American group Fiat Chrysler plans to ditch diesel from all of its passenger vehicles by 2022 following a huge fall in demand and growing costs.
And on Tuesday, a top German court issued a landmark decision permitting cities to impose diesel driving bans in order to fight pollution, plunging millions of car owners into uncertainty.
There has been a global backlash against diesel-engine cars since leading German carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. exhaust tests. The scandal has spread across the industry and boosted investment in electric vehicles.