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British cities to levy 'toxin taxes' on high-polluting cars

The fees could affect more than just diesels, although it's largely meant for oil-burners.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27: A general view of the London Skyline on October 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

In the near future, commuting through certain towns in the UK might become quite expensive.

Some 35 different cities and towns across the country may soon impose new "toxin taxes" of up to £20 ($25, directly converted), the BBC reports. The hope is that increasing fees for diesel and commercial vehicles will help mitigate pollution in city centers, which is a growing concern in the face of climate change.

The worst cities of the bunch could see outright bans on private and commercial diesel vehicles during peak congestion hours, along with or in lieu of the aforementioned tolls. The other cities may choose to focus on commercial vehicles alone, but diesel's nitrogen oxide output is a concern either way.

London is not alone in its determination to improve congestion and reduce overall pollution levels.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Taxes enforced with cameras won't be the only way towns hope to reduce emissions. The environment secretary's plans will also encourage councils to incentivize in other ways, such as adding more bike lanes or promoting park-and-ride setups. Plans will vary city by city, based on the needs of each.

London already has a £10 ($12.50) congestion charge for all vehicles entering London's busiest areas during peak traffic times, but some drivers may soon pay more in the capital city. It's expected that London mayor Sadiq Khan will soon announce another £12.50 ($15.60) tax for "the most polluting vehicles" that enter the city. That's not expected to kick in until 2019, and it's not clear what specific vehicles will face that charge.

The plans have been criticized by motoring associations who claim that drivers are being punished for following a previous government's policy by buying diesel cars. Prime Minister Theresa May has hinted that there will be schemes to help those who are affected by the tolls.

Other ideas were floated to help reduce pollution, as well. Apparently, there was an idea to create a sort of "Cash for Clunkers" setup in England, where drivers would be paid cash to scrap older, heavier-polluting cars. The plan itself was scrapped, however, after it was deemed too expensive.

Cities around the world are currently struggling to maintain and reduce vehicle emissions. Electric cars are coming, but not as fast as environmentalists would like. Until zero-emissions cars are ubiquitous, governments around the world will continue offering other solutions, whether they're tax-based or focused on promoting greener solutions.