Commission gears up against air polluters, sends six countries to court

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 17, 2018

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

The European Commission on Thursday chose to take Germany and five other European Union member states to court for breaching EU air pollution levels.

Also on Thursday, in the continuing fall-out from the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal, the European commission issued renewed warnings to the UK, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg over their alleged failure to "have effective and dissuasive penalty systems in place to deter auto manufacturers from breaking the law".

Bas Eickhout of the Greens/EFA group in the European parliament said that "it is shameful that some of Europe's wealthiest countries are dragging their heels on protecting their citizens' health".

Levels of nitrogen dioxide, mostly produced by diesel vehicles, have been illegally high since 2010 in the vast majority of urban areas in the UK. Our decision follows through on that claim.

"The Commission had to conclude that, in the case of six member states, the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible", EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella told a news conference. "It is my conviction that today's decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale".

Germany, Britain and France were targeted for failing to meet limits on NO2 while Italy, Hungary and Romania exceeded limits on particulate matter. But legal action alone will not solve the problem.

"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".

Levels of NO2 - largely from auto exhaust fumes - peaked as high as 102 microgrammes per cubic metre of air in 16 locations in the United Kingdom in 2016, including London, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, compared to an European Union limit of 40 microgrammes.

"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".

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowskaadded: "We will only succeed in fighting urban air pollution if the auto sector plays its part. Manufacturers that keep disregarding the law have to bear the consequences of their wrongdoing".

Among them, Neil Parish, Conservative MP and chair of the Commons" Efra Committee, criticised the government for "failing to come up with a coherent plan' for addressing air pollution.

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