UK Government admits breaching EU Air Quality Laws

Labour MEP Claude Moraes has been campaigning on London’s poor air quality.

On 1 May the UK Supreme Court handed down a judgement formally declaring that the UK is breaching NO2 laws and has now referred the Client Earth case against the UK government to the EU Court of Justice.

The UK government only planned to bring London into compliance with the EU Air Quality Directive in 2025, a whole 15 years after the original deadline of 1st January 2010. In arguing its case, the UK government admitted that it had been in breach of the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide since 2010. It claims that it is under no obligation to produce a plan to reduce air pollution before 2015 – leaving millions of Londoners exposed to the health risks of air pollution, which causes 29,000 early deaths per year, more than obesity and alcohol combined.

Air pollution near London’s busiest roads is twice or three times WHO guidelines and legal limits; and levels of NO2 in London are the highest of any capital city in Europe. Not only this, but the UK has the highest proportion of zones exceeding the NO2 annual limit in the EU. Despite this, the government has made further attempts to weaken public health protections on pollution.

Labour MEP for London Claude Moraes tabled an urgent question to the Council of Ministers following reports that the UK government attempted to water down public health protections in EU environmental policy at a meeting of ministers in Dublin. The Mayor of London’s answer has been to spray roads with glue, in the hope that the pollution will stick to the ground; rather than attempting to reduce the amount of pollution we are pumping into the air.

For more information on this issue you can contact Claude’s office or follow the Clean Air in London campaign here.

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