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European Union takes Britain to court over poor air quality
17 May 2018, 07:42 | Erica Roy
GETTYThe EU insists its laws are to protect people from air pollution
The European Commission is taking Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania to the EU Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality limits.
The Commission said it is taking action to address the "significant and persistent exceedances of limit values" for two key pollutants, which have health impacts: nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - mostly emitted from road traffic and industry - and particulate matter (PM10), which is mainly present in emissions from domestic heating, traffic, agriculture and industry.
Whilst the states had proposed additional measures following these warnings, Vella said the EU Commission had to conclude that "the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible". If it does not, the court can then impose large fines. Our decision follows through on that claim.
Says Commissioner for Environment, KarmenuVella: "The Member States referred to the Court today have received sufficient "last chances" over the last decade to improve the situation".
"It is my belief that today's decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale". He said: "The Commission is being forced to take legal action against the United Kingdom because the government remains steadfastly apathetic in the face of a public health crisis that is linked to the deaths of 50,000 British citizens every year".
"That is why we are outlining the practical help that the Commission can provide to the national authorities' efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns".
It is unclear when the ECJ's jurisdiction over the UK's environmental concerns will end following Brexit.
The EU limit is 40 micrograms.
A Defra spokesman said: "We continue to meet European Union air quality limits for all pollutants apart from nitrogen dioxide, and data shows we are improving thanks to our efforts to bring levels of NO2 down".
"We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy setting out a wide range of actions to reduce pollution from all sources". Recently, there were accusations that the EU was unfairly targeting Eastern Europe, where fossil fuels still reign supreme, but today's ruling for the first time names and shames Western European countries.
However, whilst the government has been keen to highlight that air quality is improving in some parts of the country, the announcement from Brussels has prompted criticism from several corners.
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