United Kingdom referred to Europe's top court over air pollution

Brussels moves to clear the air By European Interest

He said: "The Commission is being forced to take legal action against the United Kingdom because the government remains steadfastly apathetic in the face of a public health crisis that is linked to the deaths of 50,000 British citizens every year". This EU type-approval legislation requires Member States to have "effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalty systems" in place to deter auto manufacturers from breaking the law.

The British government faces huge fines from the European Court of Justice for failing to curb air pollution linked to thousands of early deaths in Britain every year.

The European Commission on Thursday sent six countries to Europe's highest court for failing to meet EU air quality standards, escalating a long-running process by Brussels.

"Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air, and when national governments fail to deliver EU protections, it's perfectly prudent for the European Commission to step in and protect us from the air we breathe".

He said: "The news that the European Commission will be taking the UK Government to court for unsafe levels of air pollution should be a wake-up call".

However, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella told a press conference in Brussels that the countries, dubbed the "toxic bloc" by activists, had failed to act quickly enough. The annual concentration of NO2 in London in 2016 was 102 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

"That is why we are outlining the practical help that the Commission can provide to the national authorities' efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns".

In light of the continuing fall-out from the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, the Commission is also taking action against four member states that "disregarded European Union vehicle type approval rules". The nations have two months to reply to prevent action from being escalated.

A summit was held in January to offer the countries a chance to find solutions to their air quality problems, but none offered "credible, effective and timely" solutions.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking earlier this week at the budget debate in the German Bundestag, called for a hands-off approach to the German vehicle industry: "It is for us to tell the sector that it must fix the trust that it has lost".

"We can not wait any longer", he added.

Greenpeace Germany traffic expert Tobias Austrup, in response to Merkel's statement, warned that "the German government is giving the auto companies ineffective measures" to fight air pollution.

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