UK given last chance to redress EU air quality breaches
The UK and eight other EU member states are being called to Brussels in a final push to get air pollution limits under legal limits.
The air quality ministerial summit on 30 January will give the UK along with the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia the chance to prove that they are taking action to comply with European air quality laws following final warnings of future legal action sent last year.
In the UK, the warnings cover persistently exceeding NO2 limits in 16 air quality zones, including London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow.
EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said the step “is at the end of a long, some would say too long, period of offers to help, advice given, and warnings made. Our first responsibility as the Commission is to the millions of Europeans – young and old, sick and healthy – who suffer from poor air quality. Parents of a child suffering from bronchitis or a daughter of someone with pulmonary disease want to see improvements in air quality as soon as possible. For them, action plans with a 10-12 year timescale or ineffective plans are useless.”
The UK is already facing its third legal action in the High Court by environmental law firm ClientEarth over claimed holes in its latest air quality plans, which were published in July.
The full-day High Court session this Thursday 25 January will hear arguments from barristers representing ClientEarth, the UK Government and the Welsh Government, with ClientEarth saying that a judgment on the day is possible. The firm’s lawyers are calling for a national network of charging clean air zones.
According to the European Environmental Agency, NO2 pollution is responsible for 75,000 premature deaths in the EU, 9,300 in France, 12,860 in Germany 17,290 in Italy, 6,740 in Spain and 14,050 in the UK every year.
The Commission added that 23 out of 28 Member States air quality standards are still being exceeded – in total in over more than 130 cities across Europe.
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