UK being taken to court over air quality by EC

Several countries including the UK are being taken to court by the European Commission (EC) for breaching EU air quality standards.

The EC has released a statement saying that France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the UK are being taken to the Court of Justice of the EU for not meeting agreed air quality limit values and for “failing to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible”. In addition the EU is issuing additional letters of formal notice to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the UK on the grounds they have disregarded EU vehicle type approval rules.

The EC said it is taking action to “address the significant and persistent exceedances of limit values for two key pollutants with health impacts: nitrogen dioxide, which is mostly a result of road traffic and industry, and particulate matter, which is mainly present in emissions from industry, domestic heating, traffic, and agriculture”.

The pressure group ClientEarth, which has taken the UK to court on three occasions over air quality regulations, applauded the EC announcement.

In a statement, ClientEarth’s CEO James Thornton said: “On top of our three successful cases, today’s legal action from the European Commission is more damning evidence of the mountain the UK government still has to climb to bring air pollution to within legal limits.

“The European Commission’s action, which could end with the UK having to pay fines, should be another strong catalyst for ministers who have failed for almost a decade to take the necessary action.

“The UK needs a new Clean Air Act fit for the 21st Century and targeted action, like scrappage schemes and clean air zones which keep the dirtiest vehicles out of our most polluted towns and cities. We need an overhaul of fiscal incentives to favour cleaner ways of getting around and we need the car industry to contribute financially to help get us out of the mess that it helped create.”