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Under EU law member states were required to reduce pollution levels for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to a certain level by January 2010. Any nation that was worried it could not reach this target could apply for a five year extension as long as they showed that they were taking appropriate steps to achieve the target.
The UK applied for an extension on all 40 of its air quality zones last year, but has recently withdrawn the applications for 16 of those zones, admitting that it will not reach the required level until 2020 or 2025. Of the remaining 24 zones the EU has itself rejected extension applications for 12, leaving the UK with only 12 zones that could comply with the law by 2015.
As a result of this pathetic effort to the European Commission is now threatening to start legal proceedings against the UK as soon as possible, potentially this year. Any legal action will consist of two lengthy court cases and potentially potentially millions of pounds in fines being levelled against the UK.
Despite this threat it is still unclear as to whether the UK will try to improve its air quality action plan in order to ensure the 12 rejected zones can reach the target by 2015. They may apply whenever they want for the extensions, and could be granted them if they just show more intention to introduce something as simple as low emissions zones to reduce traffic pollution.
Simon Birkett, founder and director of the campaign for Clean Air in London was happy with the EU’s stance, saying that “for the first time people can see clearly the scale and seriousness of the UK's 'invisible' air pollution.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com