United Kingdom taken to Europe's highest court over air pollution

United Kingdom taken to Europe's highest court over air pollution

The Commission is today referring France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to respect agreed air quality limit values and for failing to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible.

As well as the UK, France and Germany, all of whom are being pursued due to their failure to meet NO2 limits, Hungary, Italy, and Romania have been referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter.

The European Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said the EU "owed it to its citizens", to take legal action.

"Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air, and when national governments fail to deliver EU protections, it's right that the European Commission steps in to protect us from the air we breathe".

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowskaadded: "We will only succeed in fighting urban air pollution if the auto sector plays its part".

It could see the government hit with a multimillion pound fine by the European Court of Justice. "We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive clean air strategy". But legal action alone will not solve the problem. Air pollution requires urgent action and it's been clear for too many years that authorities all across Europe are failing to protect their people from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

It is unclear when the ECJ's jurisdiction over the UK's environmental concerns will end following Brexit.

Action against the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain has not been pursued as measures being put in place in each of the countries, "appear to be appropriate, if implemented" the Commission has claimed.

In Germany's case, the annual concentrations reported in 2016 in 26 air quality zones were as high as 82 µg/m3; followed by France, with the highest results in Paris as high as 96 µg/m3, and the United Kingdom within 16 air quality zones and London leading with 102 µg/m3. The citizens deserve to know what is being done to protect them from polluted air.

But many member states, especially in major cities, regularly have air pollution far beyond these limits.

The Frenchman said there could be no reduction in environmental standards after Brexit as Britain could otherwise seek a "competitive advantage" over its neighbours. "Manufacturers that keep disregarding the law have to bear the consequences of their wrongdoing".

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