Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

United Kingdom referred to Europe's top court over air pollution

The so-called 'toxic bloc&apos face heavy fines over pollution EU to take six countries to the court over air quality standards
Steven Clarke | 17 May, 2018, 18:45

The European Commission said Thursday it is taking Germany, Britain, France and three other countries to the bloc's highest court for failing to comply with EU air quality standards.

"The Commission had to conclude that, in the case of six member states, the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible", EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella told a news conference.

In January, the nine countries were found to regularly exceed emissions limits set to protect Europeans against particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both pollutants.

"The current plans by the Government to enforce these kind of rules are simply not up to the task - and they clearly need an urgent rethink to ensure environmental protection isn't sacrificed as we hurtle towards Brexit".

The British government faces huge fines from the European Court of Justice for failing to curb air pollution linked to thousands of early deaths in Britain every year.

A spokesman said: "We continue to meet European Union air quality limits for all pollutants apart from NO2, and data shows we are improving thanks to our efforts to bring levels of NO2 down".

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.

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said some countries had failed to act quickly enough on pollution

"We will shortly build on our £3.5 billion plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy setting out a wide range of actions to reduce pollution from all sources".

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.

The government's own research shows clean air zones (CAZs), in which cars are deterred from city centres by pollution charges, are by far the most effective solution to air pollution. But ministers refused to make them compulsory, instead making them a voluntary and last-resort option for local authorities.

The Luxembourg-based court can impose heavy fines. If a Brexit deal is agreed, Britain will be in the transition period and.

The Commission also warned Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Britain for disregarding auto approval rules. The nations have two months to reply to prevent action from being escalated.

Reacting to the announcement, ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: "We are glad that, at last, the Commission is taking serious steps to fight air pollution before the Court of Justice".

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