European Union takes United Kingdom to court over illegal air pollution levels

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The European Commission on Thursday chose to take Germany and five other European Union member states to court for breaching EU air pollution levels.

Germany, France, Italy, Romania, and Hungary have also been referred to the court for breaching pollution levels.

The European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, said the decision follows through on a threat to the Member States in question that they had received an ample number of final warnings over the last decade to improve the situation.

In January, the nine countries were found to regularly exceed emissions limits set to protect Europeans against particulate matter and azote dioxide, both pollutants.

In 2016 it took eight days for the United Kingdom to violate its annual air pollution limit, past year it took just five days...

Environment ministers from some of the EU's worst air pollution offenders have been summoned to Brussels for an end-of-month meeting with the European Commission, where they will have to answer some tough questions.

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The six member states had failed to deliver "credible, effective and timely measures to reduce pollution as soon as possible, as required under European Union law", a statement from the commission said. Air pollution requires urgent action and it's been clear for too many years that authorities all across Europe are failing to protect their people from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

"We will shortly build on our £3.5 billion plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy setting out a wide range of actions to reduce pollution from all sources".

Levels of nitrogen dioxide, mostly produced by diesel vehicles, have been illegally high since 2010 in the vast majority of urban areas in the UK. Spain, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic dodged that fate for now. The problem was declared a public health emergency by a cross-party committee of MPs in 2016. If a Brexit deal is agreed, Britain will be in the transition period and.

Also on Thursday, in the continuing fall-out from the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal, the European commission issued renewed warnings to the UK, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg over their alleged failure to "have effective and dissuasive penalty systems in place to deter auto manufacturers from breaking the law".

But she added that the process behind legal action should be "far more transparent" to allow citizens to know why some countries are taken to court and others not.

Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska underlined the role that Europe's auto industry has in fighting urban pollution.

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