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Europe praised for charging UK over air pollution failure

A Catholic eco-theologian has praised the European Commission for taking the British Government to court for breaching EU air quality rules.

Dr Edward Echlin, an Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, echoed the sentiments of Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas after she welcomed the Commission action as “good news for all those suffering from chronic air pollution”.

“Like Caroline Lucas, I welcome the European Commission’s action because it is so important to take care of the environment, including the air we breathe,” Dr Echlin told The Universe.

Pointing out the British Government’s failings in relation to this issue, he raised his concerns about how the UK would handle the matter when it is no longer a part of the EU.

“I am afraid that, after Brexit, our EU-based environmental regulations will be neglected,” he said.

The EU’s environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said Britain had broken limits on levels of health-damaging nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and failed to provide “credible, effective and timely” plans to cut pollution.

Levels of NO2 – largely from car exhaust fumes – peaked as high as 102 microgrammes per cubic metre of air in 16 locations in the UK in 2016, including London, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, compared to an EU limit of 40 microgrammes.

The European Commission also issued a letter of formal notice to the UK for disregarding EU measures to deter car manufacturers from trying to cheat emissions tests, introduced in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel scandal.

France and Germany were also referred to the European Court of Justice for breaching NO2 limits, though neither reached the pollution levels of the UK, with 82 microgrammes per cubic metre recorded in Stuttgart and 96 in Paris.

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Picture: File photo dated 10/04/15 of air pollution over London, as the European Commission is taking the British Government to court for breaching EU air quality rules. (Nick Ansell/PA).