EU Threatens Legal Action Over Air Quality Standards
European Union Environmental Commissioner Karmenu Vella warned several member countries on Tuesday that they will face the European Court of Justice if they do not comply with EU air pollution laws.
At a mini-summit in Brussels, Vella met with ministers from Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Spain to discuss concern about pollution levels.
“Deadlines for meeting these obligations have long since elapsed and some say we’ve already waited too long…But we can delay no more,” Vella stated. He also added that some countries are still failing to meet deadlines set for 2005 and 2010.
Great Britain, one of the eight states who were warned, reached its legal air pollution limit for 2018 in just the first month of the year. Since 2010, air quality has been at illegal levels in London and most urban areas in the UK.
The European Commission says that poor air quality is caused by vehicle exhausts, industry, refining, and agriculture. According to the Royal College of Physicians, approximately 40,000 early deaths a year due to pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, which exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems.
Post-Brexit, the UK will still be liable to pay significant fines that were previously levied in 2010 if they do not heed Vella’s warning.
French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot stated the nitrogen dioxide emissions in his country have dropped, but conceded that several regions have hit high pollution levels. He, like his fellow EU members, blamed energy and transport policy.
Vella gave the countries until the end of the week to submit proposals for the European Commission analysis, insisting that the only way for the European members to avoid court action is to take immediate steps.