The European commission has launched official legal proceedings against the UK after it failed to cut pollution, which exceeds legal limits in 16 zones across the country.
The UK unsuccessfully attempted to reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in its cities by 2010, as requested by the EU, and now faces legal action.
As already noted by the UK Supreme Court last year pollution levels are too high in areas such as Greater London, the south-east, the north-east and Greater Manchester.
London has admitted it will not be able to improve air quality until 2025 while other areas might succeed by 2020. The EU had given an extra five years to the UK but no proposal for a pollution reduction has been received, hence the decision to undertake legal action.
Environmental law firm ClientEarth claimed that air pollution causes 29,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.
CEO James Thornton said, “We have the right to breathe clean air and the government has a legal duty to protect us from air pollution. The commission has singled out the UK following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year.”
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates said, “This much-needed legal action will hopefully force the government to take urgent steps to end a national scandal that causes tens of thousands of people to die prematurely each year because of air pollution.
“The government, mayor of London and local authorities must now take tough and rapid measures, such as reducing traffic levels, rather than increasing road capacity.”