Having failed to address past numerous air pollution limit breaches, the UK has officially been issued a “final warning” by the EU.
There are 16 zones within the UK that have breached the air pollution limits set by the EU, amongst them being London, Leeds, Glasgow, and Birmingham. The UK is one of five member states that have received a “final warning” because of persistent violations of the Nitrogen dioxide limits. The polluting group of gases Nitrogen dioxide (NO) comes from various sources such as factories and vehicles, in particular vehicles running on diesel.
If the UK is not able to take action within the coming two months, the European Commission could take the matter to the European Court of Justice. If judged as guilty, the UK could face severe punishments, including heavy fines. The UK has been in breach of allowed nitrogen dioxide levels since 2010, and London, for example, has severely overstepped the yearly air pollution level in the first five days of 2017.
A European Commission spokesperson, Enrico Brivio, told the press during a briefing in Brussels : “It is a warning that we send to member states asking to comply, to take measures to fight this poor air quality that provokes respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. It is an important factor on the health of citizens.”
When it came to the question of whether or not the UK would still be bound to legal proceedings of the EU after Brexit, Alexander Winterstein, the Commission’s spokesperson for the Rule of Law, answered that “For as long as the UK is a member of the European Union, rights and obligations apply. European law applies fully.”
Air pollution has been linked to early deaths of around 40,000 people in the UK, as well as causing health problems such as heart and lung diseases and asthma.