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. The Government’s latest plan in 2017 was condemned as “woefully inadequate” by city leaders and “inexcusable” by doctors
Ministers were forced by UK courts to improve the plan in February, after losing in the high court for the third time to environmental lawyers ClientEarth, and have until the end of 2018 to implement the stricter measures.
“We have waited a long time and we cannot possibly wait any longer,” said Karmenu Vella, European commissioner for environment. “We have said that this commission is one that protects. Our decision follows through on that claim. It is my conviction that today’s decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale.”
The six member states had failed to deliver “credible, effective and timely measures to reduce pollution as soon as possible, as required under EU law”, a statement from the commission said. In contrast, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain delivered sufficient new measures after being given a final warning in January.
ClientEarth CEO, James Thornton, said: “On top of our three successful cases, today’s legal action from the European commission is more damning evidence of the mountain the UK Government still has to climb to bring air pollution to within legal limits.”
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 the UK, Greenpeace’s Rosie Rogers said: “Ministers’ apathy on this issue so far has been nothing short of a dereliction of duty. [Environment secretary] Michael Gove should swiftly come up with a clear plan to tackle the diesel vehicles responsible for most roadside toxic pollution and an outright ban on the sale of petrol, diesel cars and vans from 2030.”
A spokesman for the UK environment department said: “We continue to meet EU air quality limits for all pollutants apart from NO2, and data shows we are improving thanks to our efforts to bring levels of NO2 down. We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive clean air strategy.”
Air pollution from NO2 causes an estimated 23,500 early deaths every year in the UK. The UN’s special rapporteur on pollution said in September that the UK Government was “flouting” its duty to protect the lives and health of its citizens. The problem was declared a public health emergency by a cross-party committee of MPs in 2016.
The Government’s own research shows clean air zones (CAZs), in which cars are deterred from city centres by pollution charges, are by far the most effective solution to air pollution. But ministers refused to make them compulsory, instead making them a voluntary and last-resort option for local authorities.
The European legal case now moves to the ECJ, which will hold a hearing within months. If it declares the UK in breach of its legal duty, the UK gets a period of time to resolve the situation. If it does not, the court can then impose large fines.
The UK is leaving the EU but it is currently unclear when the ECJ’s jurisdiction over the UK would end, given the transition period already agreed. It is also possible that the UK will remain bound by ECJ judgments after Brexit, depending on the deal reached.
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 car manufacturers from breaking the law”. The nations have two months to reply to prevent action from being escalated.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, industry commissioner said: “We will only succeed in fighting urban air pollution if the car sector plays its part. Manufacturers that keep disregarding the law have to bear the consequences of their wrongdoing.”
Keith Taylor, Green party MEP for south-east England, “Post-Brexit, this is exactly the kind of scrutiny and oversight the Tories plan to escape. Proposals for a so-called environment watchdog that is nothing but a lame lapdog put this reality in sharp relief.”
This article first appeared on the Guardian
edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network
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Yes this is long overdue, the Regulations were agreed in 2005 enacted in 2008 and Into UK Law in 2010. We are now in 2018 and for all the time and many spent on conference after conference Debate after debate, Pressure Groups accusing Governments Yes Governments and that means MPs have failed to have any real outcome.
Lets place the blame where it lies, MPs are the only people who have the option to sanction the Government and make them take action to protect the population from harm and injury.
It is just not good enough for the MPs to have allowed this to happen, it is on a par with Brexit, there are many who are outspoken, but they will not risk their possibility of promotion within the Party ranks & Government. So it is partly down to self serving MPs both Brexit and Toxic Air.
We can also blame the voters who a) do not make themselves aware of the issues, B do not make themselves aware of where the various Parties Stand on issues and c) Blindly support the Main Parties because they are fed a load of misinformation and believe it.
I still have people arguing with me that Labour Party supports staying in the EU.
It is time to make lying and misinformation by Politicians and Political Parties a Criminal Offence where a Prison sentence is the only outcome I am sick of MPs and Parties laughing off a Fine by the Electoral Commission.
To the problem of Clean AIr and Carbon emissions and the Failure of Governments.It is a dereliction of duty and they should all be held to account one at a time, because these failings are a Health Hazard for Children and causing early deaths of older people. If this was a Company and it treated its workers to a does of poisonous gasses they would be fined serious numbers. If they knowingly broke the Law and caused a death they would held to account. Here we have Parliament responsible for the cause of any numbers of deaths.
Parliament and LPs should have enacted a Law, "Auto Makers you have 10 years to develop and market Affordable Zero emissions Vehicles if not your vehicles will be banned from sale in the UK" Times Up!!!!!!
It is hardly surprising that the UK and EU etc have not reached Zero emissions EVs in 2018, contrary to the publicity the R&D people are still funding petrol engine development but make every excuse in the book for not making initial modelling of Hydrogen engines.
This is made worse by the fact that the Leading Auto R&D body the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK makes a public campaign to search for Hydrogen option. Conferences to discuss Hydrogen but and it is a BIG but, they will not contemplate other options for Hydrogen other than the present one which does not appear to be able to sell a few H2 FCEVs, with Not a snowballs chance in Hell of selling millions.
This is the intention of the cabal which includes the Oil & Gas. OK to move to Battery EVs because there will be a major increase in the use of Gas Fired Power stations, lower CO2 than Coal by miles but only half the CO2 of a petrol car which is then reduced further by the CO2 emissions in producing a BEV compared to producing a petrol car.
Obfuscation from the Auto Industry, their R&D bodies and the Government who are firmly backing Fracking=Oil & Gas.
I have been saying this on Edie for many months, there is Hydrogen out here and it is being stifled.
e.g. There is a recent development from the US a system which produces Hydrogen on board the EV. This spells the death of Fossil Fuels and it is clear that it is being stifled.
This new development was part of a Hydrogen project, in discussion? with Advanced Propulsion Centre passed to their Internal Combustion Spoke Bath University.
Even though the Professor was not aware of one detail of the method/process of the Hydrogen production, He stated emphatically that it was "Hydrolysis and would not work".
It is baffling that he is a respected authority and supposed to deeply involved in Government and Industry push for Clean Energy Transport and yet he did not ask one question or suggest a meeting to discuss the system.
I do not own the IP covering the H2 production system but I can state publicly that, It is not Hydrolysis as known and that it is scientific and NOT magic. Also that it is able to work on board an EV. Because it is not magic, it does need materials which reacting together produce 99.999% H2
It does not work in conjunction with a Fuel Cell on board a EV, so there is a need to develop a Hydrogen engine to make use of the On Board Fuel supply system wold will lead to affordable Zero emissions EVs.
It can be seen that there were vested interests in play when Bath University decided that it was Hydrolysis and would not work, because it supported his decision that the Hydrogen engine project would not work.
Question for all readers here, "The cost of carrying out initial modelling of a new engine type would be 100,000 or so, given the potential to arrive at Affordable Zero Emissions EVs, would it not be reasonable to cut funding to 5 petrol engine Low-carbon projects and carry out what can be seen as far more important tests on potential Zero emissions project?"
In respect to the Clean Air Act, my concept for a Hydrogen Combustion Internal Steam Turbine-generator has been covered in three UK Patent Applications since 2015 and during the intervening months All Auto Co. emailed etc have not even bothered to reply to take a look at the details.
London E Taxi Co. replied to say, "we have no intention of taking that direction". Freudian slip perhaps, that all Auto is in cahoots with O & G to resist the end of Hydrocarbons. One thing is clear, the intended Hydrogen fueled engine-generator with on board H2 production, would make an easy fit to get rid of the petrol engine generator Range extender which would make the e.Taxi Zero emissions at all times.
We would be interested in hearing what people think and especially if investors would be interested in the project.