Paris has banned old cars from its streets in a war on air pollution. A new law has been enforced from Friday (1 July), and means that cars older than 1997 cannot be driven in Paris' city centre, Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm or the driver risks violating the law, and will be fined.

It is thought that this possible solution for Paris is likely to drive dirty vehicles from city centres in other parts of Europe in the coming years.

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, according to figures published in by France's public health agency this month.

Not everyone was pleased with the new measure Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo justified on public health grounds. Marc Martin, who uses his ageing Peugeot van to deliver to clients inside Paris once a week, said he would ignore the ban for as long as possible.

"I drive 50km 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," he told Reuters. "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."

Critics say these new measures will hit the poorest hardest, as well as slashing the resale value of ageing vehicles.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo
Anne Hidalgo has justified the new law on public health grounds.Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Pierre Chasseray, head of French car users pressure group '40 Million Drivers' said: "It's nonsense, a 'socialist' town implementing an anti-social measure. This is punishing the most impoverished people who don't have the money to buy a new vehicle. It creates an impact for those who can't buy a new vehicle and what are they given as compensation? A bike, a free membership to the Paris bike sharing scheme Velib or Autolib. But what about those who live outside Paris, 20, 30 or 40 kilometres away from Paris? A bike isn't a solution. They're not going to swap their car for a push bike."

Motorists who ignore the ban face fines of €35 ($39) after an initial tolerance period, with the fine size is set to rise substantially from the end of the year. And Paris Mayor Hidalgo doesn't want to stop there, she has said the ban could be extended in 2020 to all combustion-engine cars of more than nine years old.

But on the first day of the ban, police were not targeting drivers wallets yet.

"We're giving out a message, we are explaining to road users that from now on the rules have changed and that they will have to find other solutions. We're not finding anyone, but doing prevention and warning so it's going just fine," said commanding officer Eric Junon.

Upwards of half-a-million owners in and around Paris will be hit by the ban, according to 40 Million Drivers, which is taking legal action to seek financial compensation for drops in the value of now-banned vehicles.

Norway is planning to simply ban petrol, and diesel-fuelled cars from 2025 and several cities in Europe are testing various anti-pollution or anti-congestion measures based on tolls for city centre access or temporary and selective car bans during surges in pollution levels.