Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Britain faces European Court of Justice fines for air pollution

Britain faces European Court of Justice fines for air pollution

France and Germany were also referred to the European Court of Justice for breaching NO2 limits, though neither reached the pollution levels of the United Kingdom, with 82 microgrammes per cubic metre recorded in Stuttgart and 96 in Paris.

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

Environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said: "The member states referred to the court today have received sufficient "last chances" over the last decade to improve the situation".

Margherita Tolotto from the green group European Environment Bureau said: "European air quality laws are being broken on a continental scale".

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. It is my conviction that today's decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale".

However, a country may overstep this daily standard up to 35 times a year.

The NO2 levels were mostly produced by diesel cars and the No 10's plan in 2017 was condemned as as "woefully inadequate" by city leaders and "inexcusable" by doctors.

"The commission had to conclude that... the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible", Vella said. The Commission should have made no exceptions and referred them all.

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"Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air, and when national governments fail to deliver EU protections, it's right that the European Commission steps in to protect us from the air we breathe".

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. Air pollution requires urgent action and it's been clear for too many years that authorities all across Europe are failing to protect their people from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

The four countries now have two months to reply before further infringement action will be taken.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government was "on the right track" with fewer cities below European Union benchmarks.

Greenpeace Germany traffic expert Tobias Austrup, in response to Merkel's statement, warned that "the German government is giving the auto companies ineffective measures" to fight air pollution.

"We can't possibly wait any longer".

"Car nation" Germany has surprised its European neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.

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