Defra comes clean on air quality

7th August 2014


Related Topics

Related tags

  • UK government ,
  • Air

Author

Michael Hardisty

Nitrogen dioxide levels in parts of London, Birmingham and Leeds will not meet EU limits until after 2030, Defra has conceded.

The environment department had previously maintained that the limits would be met by 2025 in London and by 2020 in 15 other air quality zones.

Defra’s concession came as the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) began hearing evidence against the UK government for breaching its legal duty to achieve EU limits for nitrogen dioxide, which is produced mainly by diesel vehicles. Last year, the UK Supreme court ruled that the government was in breach of the duty and referred the case, brought by lawyer activist group Client Earth, to the CJEU.

The 2030 date is 20 years after the EU Directive on air quality set limits for nitrogen dioxide and led lawyers for the European commission to describe the UK’s non-compliance as “perhaps the longest running infringement of EU law in history”.

When the EU restrictions came into effect on 1 January 2010, levels of nitrogen dioxide in 40 of the 43 air quality zones in the UK were exceeding the annual 40 μg/m3 threshold. Several countries, including the UK, were granted five-year extensions, but Defra has acknowledged that 16 areas would not meet the revised 2015 deadline.

Client Earth expects the CJEU’s judgment by the end of 2014, and says it will be binding on the UK courts and the national courts in all 28 EU member states. The case will return to the UK Supreme court in early 2015 for a final ruling.

The European commission announced in February that it had launched its own proceedings against the UK for failing to deal with air pollution.

In its 2012 response to a report on air quality by the House of Commons’ environmental audit committee, Defra said that the costs of complying with EU air quality targets may outweigh the potential benefits.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

Four in five shoppers willing to pay ‘sustainability premium’

Despite cost-of-living concerns, four-fifths of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced or sourced goods, a global survey has found.

16th May 2024

Read more

Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Around 20% of the plastic recycled is polypropylene, but the diversity of products it protects has prevented safe reprocessing back into food packaging. Until now. David Burrows reports

3rd April 2024

Read more

A hangover from EU legislation, requirements on the need for consideration of nutrient neutrality for developments on many protected sites in England were nearly removed from the planning system in 2023.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 2024

Read more

Stella Consonni reports on the existing legal framework and the main challenges

15th January 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close