The European Commission has sent a final warning to five EU countries, including the UK, regarding persistent breaches of nitrogen dioxide in 16 air quality zones. Conservative MEP Julie Girling steered legislation through the European Parliament last November that revises the national ceilings for overall emissions of five key pollutants. Responding to the news, Mrs Girling said: “The fact that five major European Member States have been taken to task shows that this is not only a challenge for British central and local government. Air pollution is a problem that we face across the Western World, and its consequences for public health and for NHS budgets are significant. “It is right that we continue to set ambitious targets for reducing air pollution and that the European Commission is concerned about implementation of existing legislation.
We need to ensure that local authorities take action quickly to tackle poor air quality, which is a blight on local communities. This could include discussions around for example urban planning and traffic access. “Reducing air pollution is not a simple task but it is one we should redouble our efforts to address with urgency at international, national and – perhaps most importantly – at local level. “We’ve heard a lot, quite rightly, in the last few weeks about inadequate local authority funding resulting in a crisis in social care. I am very concerned that local authorities, who generally want to increase their efforts to ensure clean air, will not be able to meet their obligations. The Government needs to ensure that adequate funding is in place to tackle this health crisis – invest now in clean air and save money for the NHS in later years.”