EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO TAKE UK TO COURT OVER AIR POLLUTION
The European Commission announced last Thursday that it intends to take the United Kingdom to court for failing to reduce high levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution. Although other EU countries have also exceeded EU NO2 limits, the United Kingdom, according to EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik, stands out for its persistent breach of the air quality directive; despite 15 years of warnings and several extensions, it has failed to comply with EU standards. The UK supreme court set the stage for the Commission’s legal proceedings last May when it found that Britain was in breach of the directive and called for “immediate enforcement action at the national or European level.” According to a spokesman for Britain’s environment ministry, although the government has been investing heavily in measures to improve air quality, these plans would only bring the United Kingdom in compliance with EU standards by 2020 or, in London, 2025—15 years after the original 2010 deadline. Air pollution currently causes 29,000 deaths a year in the United Kingdom, possibly making it Britain’s biggest killer after smoking. For the full story, see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/20/air-pollution-european-commission-legal-action-uk-nitrogen-dioxide and http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/02/20/us-air-pollution-britain-idUKBREA1J17F20140220.