The European Commission has decided to take legal action against the UK for its failures to combat air pollution with the possibility of more countries being taken to court too. The case is particularly concentrating on the high levels of nitrogen dioxide emitted from diesel engines.
The UK Supreme Court has previously declared that air pollution limits “are regularly exceeded in 16 zones” in the country. The UK is being targeted by the Commission in this legal action because they are furthest country from reaching the safest targets.
“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. The UK has two months to respond,” said the commission in a statement.
Denmark, France, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, and the Netherlands are also under threat of legal action.
“Under EU law (the Directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air in Europe) Member States agreed to ensure compliance with hourly and annual limit values for nitrogen dioxide by 1 January 2010,” says the EU’s background on the agreement.
“Where a Member State finds itself in a breach of these limit values it is obliged to draw up an air quality improvement plan for the zone in question, setting out appropriate measures to keep the exceedance period as short as possible.”
Approximately 29,000 reportedly die in the UK each year prematurely from the small particles in air pollution. Toxic air also affects the growth of children’s developing lungs. The UK could be hit with fines up to £300 million for failure to comply with the 2010 deadline.