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EU Commission takes Member States to court over air quality breaches

17 May 2018, 10:01 | Taylor George

GETTYAir quality in British cities has been in breach of EU law for years

London through the smog

The European Commission on Thursday sent six countries to Europe's highest court for failing to meet EU air quality standards, escalating a long-running process by Brussels.

Germany, France and the United Kingdom were sent to the European Court of Justice for breaching EU standards for nitrogen dioxide limits.

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.

He said: "The news that the European Commission will be taking the UK Government to court for unsafe levels of air pollution should be a wake-up call".

Mr Vella said: "The decision to refer Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU has been taken on behalf of Europeans".

'This long-overdue announcement shows governments they can not go on allowing citizens to be poisoned by toxic air, ' Brussels-based advocate Julia Poliscanova said.

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

"Addressing the UK's toxic air should be more than just a box-ticking exercise".

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The World Health Organisation's director of public health, Dr Maria Neira, said new urgency was need to tackle air pollution: "While air pollution knows no borders and puts everyone at risk, those most vulnerable - pregnant women, children, the elderly, those already ill or poor- are particularly affected". "It is simply not acceptable that over 40,000 lives are being cut short each year because the government is too timid to take the necessary action".

Germany, Britain and France were targeted for failing to meet limits on NO2 while Italy, Hungary and Romania exceeded limits on particulate matter.

Ministers from all nine countries were summoned to a meeting in Brussels in January to outline how they meant to meet their targets.

However, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella told a press conference in Brussels that the countries, part of what activists have dubbed a "toxic bloc", had failed to act quickly enough. But it shouldn't have taken so long.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles and air quality manager at sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the "long-overdue announcement" was a clear message to European Union governments.

"It is disappointing that not all nine countries called in for a meeting with the Commission in January have been referred today. That is why we are outlining the type of practical help that the Commission can provide to national authorities in their efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns", said Vella.

"European air quality laws are being broken on a continental scale", Tolotto said.



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