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EU threatens UK with fine for 'systematically' breaking pollution laws

Telegraph reporters
·2-min read
The court said the UK has failed to keep pollution as low as possible - REUTERS
The court said the UK has failed to keep pollution as low as possible - REUTERS

The UK has "systematically and persistently" broken air pollution laws, the European Court of Justice has said in its first ruling against the UK since Brexit.

Britain could face a fine from the EU after it did not adhere to levels of nitrogen dioxide associated with heavy vehicle traffic.

The court added that the UK failed to take measures to keep breaches of pollution as low as possible.

It found that levels over 16 areas including Greater London and Greater Manchester "systematically" exceeded EU air quality targets set out in 2008.

Though the UK left the ECJ on Dec 31, it is still subject to rulings in cases it has been involved with before Brexit.

The case covers 2010 till 2017, stemming from a European Commission complaint lodged in 2018.

Road transport is one of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide emissions, with built-up urban areas of the UK being hit hardest with negative health effects from prolonged exposure.

An inquest last year found that air pollution had contributed to the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah (below), a London schoolgirl who suffered from severe asthma.

The UK has already pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030 in a bid to meet its climate targets.

Ella Kissi-Debrah - PA
Ella Kissi-Debrah - PA

London will also expand its ultra low-emission zone later this year which requires vehicles to meet strict standards or face fees.

It comes as the Government was accused of having "no plan" for cutting the UK's emissions to net zero, almost two years after the target was made into law.

A report from the public accounts committee said there was no coordinated plan with clear milestones to achieve the legally binding goal to cut emissions by 100 per cent by 2050.

Air pollutants | Which should we be worried about?
Air pollutants | Which should we be worried about?

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Air pollution at a national level has reduced significantly since 2010, and now we are out of the EU, we are continuing to deliver our £3.8 billion air quality plan."

The Paris Agreement commits countries to limiting temperature rises to "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to curb warming to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

A government spokesman said it was "nonsense" to say there was no plan, claiming the UK had been "leading the world in tackling climate change".