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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

London MEPs urge EU Commissioner to stand firm on London’s poor air quality

Green MEP Jean Lambert and Labour MEP Claude Moraes held a joint meeting with the office of the European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik, today to urge him to reject the UK’s reapplication for a time extension to comply with EU air quality law [1].

The UK have requested until 2011 to meet daily limit values of dangerous airborne particles, known as PM10 [2]. Greater London has exceeded these limits since 2005 and as a result the UK received its first warning in 2009 and its final warning in June of this year. If the UK fails to take necessary measures to comply with legislation, the European Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice. The Commission is due to announce a decision on the UK’s reapplication by the end of this year.

Jean and Claude were also joined at the meeting by Simon Birkett, of the Campaign for Clean Air in London [3], of which both MEPs are founding members.

Jean Lambert, the Green Party MEP for London, said: “This is a crucial decision that essentially comes down to one thing – the health of Londoners. An estimated 4,300 people die prematurely every year in London because of poor air quality [4]. Clearly, the time for merely consulting on delaying tactics is over, the time to act is now.

“We presented Commissioner Potocnik with strong and well-documented evidence to support our case and urged him to stand firm on the UK’s blatant and consistent breeches of EU air quality law. If the UK do not take the necessary measure to comply with legislation, the Commission has no choice but to refer the case to the European Court of Justice, while the UK Government must take every step possible to eliminate this danger to human health.”

Claude Moraes, a Labour MEP for London, added: “We discussed with Commissioner Potocnik the numerous reasons why the European Commission should reject the UK’s reapplication. Notably, the Government’s monitoring site on Marylebone Road, as detailed in the application as the site used to represent the worst air pollution in London, is not representative. At least five other sites across the capital have recorded greater daily values of PM10 this year [5].

“The application also includes the benefits of the proposed western extension of the congestion charge zone, a proposal the Mayor of London has now scrapped. Furthermore, the UK has ultimately failed to demonstrate it will comply with the limit values by 2011 by using flawed methodologies and including no margin for error in its application. The Commission’s decision is simple – reject the UK’s reapplication and protect the health of Londoners.”

ENDS

Note to editor

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] http://www.cleanairinlondon.org/

[4] To read the Institute of Occupational Medicine’s full report on ‘estimation of mortality impact of particular air pollution in London’ visit: http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Health_Study_%20Report.pdf

[5] Comparisons can be found here: http://www.londonair.org.uk