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article imageBritish government in trouble over air pollution

By Tim Sandle     Nov 1, 2016 in Environment
London - The British government has been accused by a campaign group of failing to meet the air pollution targets agreed by the European Union. The matter has been referred to the courts.
The group bringing the charge are ClientEarth and they have requested that the High Court reviews the case, with the aim of instructing government ministers to develop a new plan to improve air quality.
At play is the issue of nitrogen dioxide levels. This colorless gas is emitted from road vehicles. High levels of the gas have been associated with reduced life expectancy, a higher risk of heart attacks and various respiratory disorders.
The reason why airways are at risk is because nitrogen dioxide is an irritant gas. At sufficiently high concentrations it can cause inflammation of the airways.
With the limits, back in 1999 the European Union agreed a set legally enforceable limits for nitrogen dioxide. Each member state was given until 2010 to put measures in place to reduce the pollutant down to a safe level.
In many parts of Europe, including the U.K., limits are being exceeded, six years passed the deadline date. According to ClientEarth 37 out of 43 areas of the U.K. breach the limits, with London being the worst offender.
The British government has responded to the charge by issuing a plan to clear up five regions. Whether this is seen as sufficient will now become the subject of legal opinion.
Measures considered in the plan include establishing clean air zones to restrict access by highly-polluting vehicles; retrofitting bus and trucks to reduce their emissions; and a scrappage scheme to remove all diesel cars from the roads (diesel cars being far heavier polluters than cars running off petrol). To those against the proposals, placing restrictions on traffic through a major area like London is seen as potentially economically damaging.
Campaigners do not seem impressed with the plan or the associated timescales. James Thornton, head of ClientEarth, told New Scientist magazine: “This is a woefully inadequate response to the air pollution crisis.” The matter is to be discussed by the High Court over the coming months.
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