National Clean Air Day: UK Government could face Court of Justice over air quality failures

The EU has confirmed that the UK could face the Court of Justice for its repeated air pollution failures. The news, as revealed by Green Party MEP Keith Taylor, comes on the first ever National Clean Air Day – a day of action to raise awareness of air pollution across Britain.

National Clean Air Day is being coordinated by Global Action Plan and backed by various councils, healthcare professionals, universities, schools and environmental organisations.

The EU issued the UK with a ‘final warning‘ over its lack of action on air pollution in February. In a follow-up letter, sent to the Green Party MEP for the South East Keith Taylor, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella warned that the UK could face the Court of Justice of the EU over its repeated air quality failures, but added that the EU does not comment on ongoing infringement proceedings.

Domestically, the UK Government lost a series of high-profile court cases on air quality and was forced to produce a nationwide air quality action plan last month.

The plan has been roundly criticised by environment and public health campaigners. The inaugural Clean Air Day will coincide with the end of the Government’s consultation on its air quality plan for Britain. The UK’s three Green MEPs have made a joint submission to the enquiry.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East and a member of the European Parliament’s Transport and Environment committees, is welcoming the National Clean Air Day initiative but warning that the new UK government must do much more to avoid the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The vocal air quality campaigner said:

“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Global Action Plan for coordinating the first-ever National Clean Air Day. I am delighted to see so many communities planning activities to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution while taking action to reduce their impact on the UK’s air quality.”

“I’m sure it’s no accident that the inaugural event coincides with the consultation on the government’s feeble air quality plan. It’s a timely opportunity to remind the new weak and wobbly administration that we will not stand by and let the government abdicate its responsibility for cleaning up our air.”

“And it’s not just the British people that refuse to put up with a Prime Minister that stands idly by while we choke, the EU is clearly ready to take decisive action against a Conservative Party that has consistently displayed an irresponsible and deadly apathy towards an air quality crisis linked to the unnecessary deaths of 40,000 Britons every year. That’s 769 lives cut tragically short every week the Government fails to take action.”

“It’s a scandal that Theresa May and her predecessor have shown such a shocking disregard of the UK’s legal and moral obligation to take action on air pollution. That it is the European Commission having to hold the UK government to account for a public health crisis that costs the British public more than £20bn a year is shameful.”

“Greens are doing all we can at the European level to strengthen air pollution policies and ensure current EU air quality legislation is properly enforced. But it is time for the UK government to finally take action.”

“Good luck to all those taking part in the National Clean Air Day today. I hope this collective action coupled with the threat of being dragged through the Court of Justice contributes to a critical step change in the Government’s thinking and spurs the urgent national response we so desperately need.”