European Commission Launches Legal Action Against UK Over 'Dirty Air'

European Commission Launches Legal Action Against UK Over 'Dirty Air'

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to meet EU-imposed air pollution targets. The Commission says that levels of nitrogen dioxide are too high in many cities and has accused the government of not doing enough to reduce them.

The 2008 European air pollution directive set limits on the level of air-borne contaminants permissible in EU member states. These contaminants include various nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ammonia and particulate matter. EU states were supposed to meet these limits by 2010, but the British government says it won’t be able to meet the targets until 2025.

The EU divides UK up into 43 “zones” for the purposes of air pollution monitoring. 16 of these zones regularly exceed the EU-imposed limits, including London, Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Merseyside and Glasgow. The UK government says it has no credible way to reduce this for the next 11 years.

The EU Commission issued a statement saying: “Although the original deadline for meeting the limit values was 1 January 2010, extensions have been agreed with Member States which had a credible and workable plan for meeting air quality standards within five years of the original deadline, i.e. by January 2015. The UK has not presented any such plan for the zones in question.

“The Commission is therefore of the opinion that the UK is in breach of its obligations under the Directive, and a letter of formal notice has been sent.”

Other EU states have also exceeded limits, including France, Greece, Sweden and Denmark, but EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik has singled Britain out for “persistent” breaches.