UK air quality won’t meet EU standards until 2030 (Wired UK)

David Holt London / CC BY-SA 2.0

The British government has
 that its air quality targets will be missed by at
least 20 years, breaching European legislation.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution, which is produced mainly by diesel
vehicles, aggravates health problems such as asthma and is thought to shorten lives as much as particulate
 — which itself is linked to lung cancer and
heart failure. Combined, Public Health England says that air pollution causes 29,000 deaths per year in
the UK.

EU member states were supposed to meet targets on nitrogen
dioxide pollution by 2010, but Britain has repeatedly pushed that
back. Until recently, the government had said all parts of the UK
would be in compliance by 2025, but have now admitted that London,
Leeds and Birmingham could still be above the targets in 2030.
Tyneside, Liverpool, Bristol, Sheffield and Nottingham were all
expected to be in compliance by 2015, but have now been pushed back
to 2025.

The admission was made during a civil case brought by
environmental activist group Client Earth. It has already
won a judgement in Britain’s supreme court that the government is
breaching its legal duty, but the European Court of Justice is now
involved in the case too after being asked to define certain
provisions of the EU air quality directive.

Barry Gardiner, shadow environment minister, told the Guardian: “Today’s response from the European
Court of Justice shows that the government is failing to meet even
its own inadequate air pollution targets. Instead of implementing
measures to reduce the levels of pollution, the government recently
had to scrap its own air quality strategy because it would have
made the problem worse, and currently the government have no

A Defra spokesperson added: “We are investing heavily in
measures to improve air quality and have committed billions to
increase uptake of ultra-low-emission vehicles, sustainable travel
and green transport initiatives.”

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