EU air quality legal ruling expected in March

The European Commission is assessing steps being taken by nine EU member states — including the UK — to address nitrogen dioxide pollution, before deciding whether to take forward further legal proceedings.

A decision on potential legal proceedings against EU members is expected from the Commission in mid-March.

Karmenu Vella (© European Union , 2016. Source: EC – Audiovisual Service. Photo: François Walschaerts)

This follows a meeting in Brussels between the EU’s Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella and ministers from the nine countries, which includes the UK, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, last month (see story).

At the meeting, the Commissioner asked for member states to outline progress made towards complying with the legally binding 40 µg/m3 annual mean target for nitrogen dioxide, which has been breached in a number of European countries since 2010.

The Commissioner asked for detailed submissions from each of the member states on the steps being put in place to meet the legal limits, setting a 9 February deadline for the submission of details.


Mr Vella also warned that the countries face infringement proceedings for exceeding agreed air pollution limits.

Following the meeting, the European Commission confirmed that it has received submissions from each of the nine states, and is evaluating further steps to be taken.

A Commission spokesperson, said: “On 30 January, Commissioner Vella convened a meeting with representatives of all 9 Member States who face infringement procedures for exceeding agreed air pollution limits.

“The next day, 31 January, the College of Commissioners agreed to proceed with the final stage of infringements on air quality, unless additional credible, timely and effective measures are presented by 9 Member States.

“The Commission can confirm that all Member States concerned have submitted additional information, which we will evaluate. We will come back to the matter in mid-March.

“At this stage we cannot comment on single cases.”

The UK was represented at the meeting by the Defra minister Therese Coffey (see story).

Commenting ahead of the meeting last month a Defra spokesperson said: “Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010, but we recognise there is more to do which is why we have put in place a £3.5billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“We are at the forefront of calls for the EU to introduce Real Driving Emissions testing which is essential in meeting our air quality goals, the first stage of which came in for new models of vehicles in September 2017. We continue to actively engage at a European and international level to tackle air pollution.”


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