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European Union court finds UK in breach of EU air pollution limit

European Union court finds UK in breach of EU air pollution limit

7.03.2021 | Esther Chihaavi | U. Nairobi School of Law, KE MARCH 6, 2021 02:02:47 AM | 698

A European Union court ruled Thursday that the UK was in breach of the bloc’s air pollution limit by failing to fulfil its obligations under the combined provisions of Article 13(1) and of Annex XI to Directive No 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.

The Directive establishes air quality objectives, including ambitious, cost-effective targets for improving human health and environmental quality up to 2020. It also specifies ways of assessing these and of taking any corrective action if the standards are not met. It provides for the public to be kept informed. This judgement raises the possibility that the country may still be fined even after leaving the European Union (EU).

Britain exited the European Union together with the European Court of Justice at the end of 2020. It nonetheless agreed to apply the judgements of the court for cases that had been initiated while it was still a member of the EU. This was the first judgement following the country’s exit.

The court found that the UK had systematically and persistently failed to meet its obligations under Article 13 (1) of the directive between 2010 and 2017. It found that as much as states had the discretion to decide the specific measures to adopt, those measures must, in any event, ensure that the period during which the limit values are exceeded is as short as possible. It had taken too long a time for them to bring to and end the proven exceedances of the limit values, having regard to the requirement to ensure that the period of exceedance is kept as short as possible.

The UK could face financial penalties if they still fail to comply. The court also ordered the UK to pay the legal costs incurred by the European Commission.

In a bid to meet climate goals, the UK has pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030.

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