Commission refers six countries to European Union court over foul air

EU to take six countries to the court over air quality standards

EU to take six countries to the court over air quality standards

The UK is facing a multimillion-pound fine for breaching air quality limits after the European Commission referred it and five other nations to the European Court of Justice.

"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 EU estimates that air pollution costs the bloc 20 billion euros ($24.7 billion) a year in health costs, but says this could be reduced if member states comply with agreed emissions limits.

The Luxembourg-based court can impose heavy fines. 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". But Vella also admitted that "legal action alone will not solve the problem". "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.


It is unclear when the ECJ's jurisdiction over the UK's environmental concerns will end following Brexit.

News that the United Kingdom government is to face legal proceedings over its failure to meet air quality limits should act as a "wake-up call" for more action on the issue, politicians and campaigners have claimed. "We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive clean air strategy".

For the EU Commission, they had sent similar warnings to Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic but these countries had managed to hand in a set of actions believed to be sufficient to curb air pollution and emissions.

The decision fires the starting gun on a race to bring Britain back in line with air pollution limits before European Union judges in Luxembourg impose hefty fines in the form of a daily penalty or lump sum. Recently, there were accusations that the EU was unfairly targeting Eastern Europe, where fossil fuels still reign supreme, but today's ruling for the first time names and shames Western European countries.

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

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