EU rejects UK bid to extend NO2 deadline

28th June 2012


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Transport ,
  • Central government ,
  • EU ,
  • Prevention & Control

Author

IEMA

The European Commission has refused to allow the UK to postpone meeting its air quality obligations, leaving the government potentially facing legal action

Under the Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) EU member states have been required to ensure levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) do not exceed specified safe limits since January 2010.

However, the UK has failed to meet the limits in 40 urban and suburban areas, including central Scotland, Belfast, Cardiff and London, and in September last year Defra applied to the commission for permission to push back the deadline.

While the Directive allows countries to postpone meeting the requirements until 2015, Defra’s application confirmed it did not expect to meet the targets until at least 2020 in 16 of the areas, effectively admitting the UK would be in breach of EU legislation for at least a decade.

In April, Defra amended its application asking the commission to only examine its air quality action plans for the 24 sites it believed could lower NO2 levels by 2015. After reviewing the plans, the EU commission has agreed to extending the deadline for just half of the zones affected, arguing that the UK had not shown that the NO2 limits could be met in the other areas by 2015.

The decision means that the UK is now in breach of the Directive in 28 areas, and the commission has initiated the process that will decide whether it will take legal action against the government.

Simon Birkett, founder and director of the Clean Air in London campaign, said: “The commission’s decision shows how ludicrous it was of the government to say it won’t comply with the standards in London until 2025.”

“It is scandalous the UK did not commit to any new measures in any zone in its application to delay compliance with NO2 limit values. We need political leadership; fewer and cleaner (diesel) vehicles; to reduce emissions from buildings; to protect the most vulnerable; and to ensure an air quality legacy from the Olympics.”

Reacting to the commission’s decision, a Defra spokesperson told the environmentalist: “Our air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and is now generally very good.

“There are some limited areas where air pollution remains an issue but that’s being dealt with by the air quality plans, which set out all the important work being done at national, regional and local levels to make sure we meet EU limits as soon as we can.”

However, in February, Defra responded to a report on air quality from the parliamentary environmental audit, arguing that the costs of meeting the NO2 targets could 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

Fifth of UK food firms unprepared for deforestation regulation

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th 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

Dr Julie Riggs issues a call to arms to tackle a modern-day human tragedy

15th March 2024

Read more

The UK’s new biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements could create 15,000 hectares of woodlands, heath, grasslands, and wetlands and absorb 650,000 tonnes of carbon each year.

13th March 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

Digital tracking, packaging data delays and new collections provide a waste focus for this edition’s environmental round-up by legislation expert Neil Howe

28th November 2023

Read more

Environmental crimes could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years and company fines of 5% of turnover under a proposed EU law agreed by the European parliament and council.

21st November 2023

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