For many European cities, diesel exhaust emissions have become a health as well as an environmental problem.

So in addition to promoting electric cars or alternative forms of transportation, lawmakers are beginning to crack down on the dirtiest diesels.

RELATED: Half Of All Cars Banned From Paris Roads Over Smog; Electric Cars Exempt

Next year, the French government will launch a car identification system that will rank vehicles by the amount of pollution they emit.

According to Reuters, this will allow local authorities to limit city access for the worst-polluting cars.

2014 Peugeot 308

2014 Peugeot 308

The move--announced in a speech by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Friday--is part of an effort to gradually phase out diesel fuel in the country.

In the 1960s, the French government and auto industry made the decision to move to diesel--which was viewed as less polluting than gasoline in the days before catalytic converters became standard.

Now, France is paying for that choice in the form of high levels of harmful particulate matter and other aftereffects of diesel-exhaust emissions from cars that don't come close to meeting current diesel emission standards.

France has "long favored the diesel engine," Valls said in his speech, but claimed that it was a "mistake" that must be undone with policy changes that could--in the long term--end diesel's dominance.

MORE: The Netherlands: Well-Suited To Electric Cars, And Eager To Have More

That includes measures to decrease diesel's tax advantage over gasoline by raising the so-called TICPE excise tax.

Around two thirds of the cars on French roads use diesel, which has led previous governments to shy away from any increase in taxes on the fuel.

But only next year will new diesel cars sold in Europe have to be fitted with diesel particulate filters and other aftertreatment systems, under the Euro 6 standards, which will bring them roughly to the level that has been required in the U.S. since 2008.

Earlier this year, Energy Minister Segolene Royal also announced plans for a 10,000-euro (about $13,500) incentive for drivers who scrap their diesel vehicles and replace them with electric cars.

Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam, by Flickr user Martin de Lusenet (used under CC License)

Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam, by Flickr user Martin de Lusenet (used under CC License)

Rotterdam cracks down on dirtiest cars, too

Meanwhile, the Dutch city of Rotterdam is also looking to eliminate the worst-polluting cars on its streets, and plans to incentivize alternatives.

The city plans to upgrade its own fleet to cut pollution by 25 percent, and is considering banning older cars from its center, according to DutchNews.

Rotterdam may stop issuing parking permits for diesel cars built before 2005, and gasoline cars built before 1992, as well as offer the owners cash for scrapping the dirtiest cars.

Commercial trucks could also be banned from the Gravenijkwal--a major highway and currently Rotterdam's most-polluted road.

As an alternative, the city also wants to install more electric-car charging stations and improve bike facilities.

Promoting electric cars would bring Rotterdam in line with the national government of The Netherlands, which has introduced tax breaks in order to reach a goal of having 200,000 plug-in cars on the road by 2020.


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