European Commission (Commission) has referred the UK to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for its failure to comply with limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) ‘as soon as possible’.
France and Germany have also been referred to the CJEU on NO2. Hungary and Italy have been referred over persistently high levels of particulate matter (PM10).
The Commission has also sent the UK a first written warning for disregarding vehicle type approval rules.
Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said:
“Europe at its ‘best’ is taking the UK at its ‘worst’ to Court on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution. Hurrah!
“Clean Air in London (CAL) congratulates Commissioner Vella on referring the UK to Court. Let’s hope it’s jail for ministers not fines if Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Theresa May continue to flout these laws!
“This enforcement action against the UK is much needed. The UK has failed repeatedly to comply with NO2 limit values in legislation since 1999 to be complied with by 1 January 2010.
“Cities must ban diesel vehicles as we banned coal burning in ‘Smoke Control Areas’ so successfully with the first Clean Air Act in 1956.
“Today’s action shows why we are supporting Baroness Jenny Jones in proposing a new Clean Air Act, with a powerful Citizens’ Commission for Clean Air, that will be able to hold successive governments to account when we leave the European Union, as the European Commission is doing today, for failing to protect public health.”
European Commission quotes:
Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella said: “The decision to refer Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU has been taken on behalf of Europeans. We have said that this Commission is one that protects. Our decision follows through on that claim. The Member States referred to the Court today have received sufficient ‘last chances’ over the last decade to improve the situation. It is my conviction that today’s decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale. But legal action alone will not solve the problem. That is why we are outlining the practical help that the Commission can provide to the national authorities’ efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns.”
Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska added: “We will only succeed in fighting urban air pollution if the car sector plays its part. Zero emissions cars are the future. Meanwhile, complying with emissions legislation is a must. Manufacturers that keep disregarding the law have to bear the consequences of their wrongdoing.”
1. European Commission’s media release
2. New Clean Air Act proposed by Baroness Jenny Jones
3. Nitrogen dioxide levels in London
4. Clean Air in London’s original complaint to the European Commission in January 2012
5. Defra’s ‘Air pollution in the UK’ report 2016