The government has published its plan to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide levels in the UK, following delays and legal battles with environment groups.
The news comes after the was government of failing to protect people from illegal levels of air pollution.
The proposals maintain that pollution targets could be hit if charging schemes are introduced in the UK's biggest cities but directs that local authorities would not be legally required to introduce charging zones. Furthermore, owners of older cars could be offered a cash incentive to scrap their vehicles.
Ministers had initially delayed publishing the plans claiming it would breach ‘purdah’ rules, but chose not to appeal the decision.
The Royal College of Physicians Air (RCGP) has warned that pollution causes at least 40,000 deaths a year, with the cost of the damage reaching £20 billion.
Responding to the report, James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “We are continuing to study the government's latest air quality plan, but on the face of it it looks much weaker than we had hoped for.
"The court ordered the government to take this public health issue seriously and while the government says that pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health, we will still be faced with illegal air quality for years to come under these proposals.
“There needs to be a national network of clean air zones which prevent the most polluting vehicles from entering the most illegally polluted streets in our towns and cities.
"We fail to see how the non-charging clean air zones, proposed by the government, will be effective if they don't persuade motorists to stay out of those areas. The government seems to be passing the buck to local authorities rather than taking responsibility for this public health emergency."