Campaigners urge EU to take UK to court

Campaigners have written to the EU's Environment Commissioner to demand legal action is taken against the UK for alleged breaches of air quality laws.

The Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) has asked Commissioner Stavros Dimas to punish the UK for failing to apply for a time extension to comply with EU air quality laws on PM10 particulates by a deadline of October 31.

The organisation wants the European Commission to launch legal action by the end of this month on the levels of PM10 pollution.

It is also wants the EU to take the UK to court in early 2009 on levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Their concerns were raised in the House of Lords on Tuesday by Baroness Gardner of Parkes, who asked Government whether it had met the October 31 deadline.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a minister in the new department of Energy and Climate Change, confirmed that Government had missed the deadline, as it had been given very little notice of the information that the EU required – a problem faced by a number of other EU nations.

But he said: “The UK intends to submit an application for an exemption for those few parts of the UK where there have been breaches of limit values, including London, from the obligation to apply the limit value for particulate matter until June 2011.”

He added: “Most of the country meets the target now and, on current projections, a few areas will meet it by 2011.

“We have a problem in London, but our aim in seeking to extend the time limit to 2011 is that, by working with the London government and its local authorities, we will meet the target by that date.”

The CCAL’s letter said: “The Commission said on July 8 2008 that legal action would follow if any Member State did not submit a notification for a time extension by the deadline and so it must.

“Please therefore enforce air quality laws now and send a message to those attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan that Europe is serious about complying with the environmental obligations that it sets.”

The CCAL is now awaiting a response from Commissioner Dimas to the letter, which was sent on Sunday.

Kate Martin

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