Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

European Union to take six countries to the court over air quality standards

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella launched the legal action in Brussels on Thursday EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella launched the legal action in Brussels on Thursday. Credit Fracois Lenoir Reuters
Kenny Thornton | 17 May, 2018, 19:42

The European Commission is cracking down on EU member states' lax air quality standards, referring the United Kingdom and six other countries to the EU Court of Justice over their failure to significantly improve air quality.

As well as the UK, France and Germany, all of whom are being pursued due to their failure to meet NO2 limits, Hungary, Italy, and Romania have been referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter.

The European Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said it was the Commission's responsibility to ensure people could breathe clean air.

The European Commission announced on Thursday (17 May) the launch of legal action against six member states accused of breaking air pollution limits.

The Toxicity Charge introduced in October 2017 in Central London was one of the UK's air quality measures deemed insufficient by the European Commission, given that 16 air quality zones across the nation exceeded the limit in 2016.

However, whilst the government has been keen to highlight that air quality is improving in some parts of the country, the announcement from Brussels has prompted criticism from several corners.

Warning that legal action alone will not solve the pollution problem, Mr Vella also unveiled a raft of new Commission measures to help member states promote cleaner air.

Gianluigi Buffon to play final game for Juventus on Saturday
That was unthinkable back then, even for me". 'The only problem is that my life has been organised for me for 23 years. That was his 176th cap for Italy - a national record - since his debut against Russian Federation in October 1997.

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".

In total, there are infringement cases pending against 13 member states, those being Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, and the UK. But Commissioner Vella emphasised that they are not "off the hook" and the Commission will be monitoring their implementation progress closely.

The UK government has two months to respond to the EU Commission before it takes further action.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking earlier this week at the budget debate in the German Bundestag, called for a hands-off approach to the German auto industry: "It is for us to tell the sector that it must fix the trust that it has lost".

"We can't possibly wait any longer".

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.

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