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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP demands UK act on European Commission’s final warning over air quality failings

Jean Lambert, the Green MEP for London, today welcomed news that the European Commission has issued a second and final written warning to the UK for failing to comply with EU air quality standard on particulate matter (PM10) and will be accelerating legal action.

In line with the European Directive on Air Quality (2008) [1], the Commission has issued this final warning because certain zones of the UK, namely the Greater London Urban Area and Gibraltar, have continued to exceed the limit value for dangerous airborne particles known as PM10 since 2005.

The UK was first issued with a warning in January 2009 and has since submitted an exemption request for London, which was rejected, and have applied for two time extensions to comply with air quality laws. However, given that zones still exceed the PM10 values the Commission stuck with their decision to send the final warning. If the UK fails to take necessary measures to comply with legislation, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Jean Lambert, the Green Party MEP for London, said:

“I welcome the Commission’s decision to send a final warning to the UK and call on the coalition Government to take real and affirmative action to address London’s pitiful air quality. For too long this problem has been swept under the carpet, but to continue to do that would be to continue to fail citizens across the country and especially in London, where air quality at several sites is falling far below agreed standards. 

“The tiny airborne particles (PM10) covered in the legislation, which are primarily emitted by industry, vehicles and domestic heating, can cause and irritate conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and lead to premature death. In London alone it is estimated that over 4,300 people die prematurely each year as a result of poor air quality, with thousands more admitted to hospital.

“The time of merely consulting on delaying tactics is over, the time to act is now. The Government should be taking every possible step to eliminate this danger to human health. This means urgent action by the Mayor of London who needs to rapidly revisit and revise his air quality strategy and stop putting Londoners health at risk.”

Note to Editors

[1] EU air quality legislation sets binding limit values and/or indicative target values for the maximum permitted concentrations of certain pollutants in the air. Action to reduce pollution through an air quality plan is required where there is a risk of these standards being exceeded.

Limit values for PM10 impose both an annual average concentration value of 40 micrograms (μg)/m3, and a daily concentration value of 50 μg/m3 which must not be exceeded more than 35 times per calendar year. These entered into force on 1 January 2005.

The 2008 Air Quality Directive allows Member States, under strict conditions, time extensions for meeting the air quality standards for PM10 (until 11 June 2011) and NO2 and benzene (until 2015 at the latest). During the extension period, limit values continue to apply plus a margin of tolerance.

For further information on time extensions: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/legislation/time_extensions.htm

For further information on limit values for pollutants: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/standards.htm