PARIS (Reuters) - Paris banned old, exhaust-belching cars from its streets on Friday in a war on air pollution that environmentalists hope will also drive dirty vehicles from the centers of other European cities.
Air pollution, in large part caused by fine particulate fuel emissions, kills 48,000 people each year in France, some 400,000 in Europe and around 3.7 million worldwide, data published by France's public health agency this month showed.
Any car registered before Jan. 1, 1997, will be barred from the city's streets from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Some owners protested by parking their vehicles near the National Assembly and Champs Elysees avenue to denounce a ban they say will hurt poor people most and slash the resale value of their vehicles.
"I drive 50 km per week, I don't have the means to change vans so I will continue using it, I'll get fined every week and there you go," said Marc Martin, who uses his aging Peugeot van to deliver picture frames to clients.
"And if it goes too far, I'll close my business, people will lose their jobs, that's it. What can I say, not much. This law is pathetic."
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the ban could be extended in 2020 to all combustion-engine cars more than nine years old.
After an initial tolerance period, motorists who flout the ban face fines of 35 euros ($39), an amount that is set to jump from the end of the year.
Upwards of half-a-million owners in and around Paris will be hit by the ban, according to a driver defense group, 40 million d'Automobilistes, which is taking legal action to seek financial compensation for drops in the value of now-banned vehicles.
Norway is planning to ban petrol- and diesel-fueled cars from 2025 and several cities in Europe are testing various anti-pollution or anti-congestion measures based on tolls for city center access or temporary and selective car bans during surges in pollution levels.
(Editing by Richard Lough and Janet Lawrence)