The Commission says it is assessing the UK’s position and has taken action against 20 member states following criticism from the European Environmental Bureau, writes Will Date.
The European Commission has defended its work in enforcing air quality laws, after drawing criticism from a leading environmental group. And, it has said that it is still waiting to carry out an assessment of the UK’s position
This follows calls from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), which represents over 140 environmental groups from across the continent, for the Commission to take immediate action against Member States who are in breach of EU air quality laws.
In a letter to environment commissioner Janez Potocnik on Monday (April 23), the secretary general of the EEB Jeremy Wates said that high levels of particulate matter present in the air result in around half a million deaths per year across the 27 EU Member States.
In his letter Mr Wates said: “Every day that limit values are exceeded results in more costs for society. It diminishes the quality of the life and health of EU citizens. We therefore see no excuse for Member States to fail to comply with EU standards, especially as the health of EU citizens is at stake, and as those limits were negotiated and endorsed by Member States themselves more than ten years ago.
“One of the most effective ways to put an end to this is by enforcing the EU air quality laws as soon as possible. As Commissioner for Environment, you have a vital role to play in making sure that those Member States who are in breach of the Directive are sent to the European Court of Justice without delay.â€?
However, speaking to Airqualitynews a spokesman for the EC’s Commissioner for the environment defended the Commission’s work on enforcing air quality legislation, saying that it is ‘very active’ in the field.
He said: “The Commission is very active in ensuring member states are compliant with air quality laws, and has opened proceedings against 20 member states for non compliance to date.
“There have been two court cases already and we are looking at other countries, including the UK who are not compliant with the limits, but we are waiting to receive the latest data before we can proceed with these. As far as we are concerned, it is a very active dossier.â€?
In 2011, the European referred France and Belgium to the EU Court of Justice for failing to comply with EU air quality limit values for particles known as PM10, which are mainly present in pollution from industrial activities, traffic and domestic heating.
European legislation, which came into force in 2005, set limits for the maximum concentrations of certain pollutants in the air. If these limits are exceeded more than 35 times in a calendar year in designated air quality zones, the EU can decide to take infringement actions against these member states.
Poland was also referred to the Court of Justice in November 2011 for failing to transpose Ambient Air Quality legislation into national law in the timeframe set out by the EU. The country was ordered to pay €71,521 per day until the law has been transposed.