EU Suing France, UK and Germany over Air Pollution Levels

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The nations - the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Romania - had been given a final warning by the European commission in January.

The UK's environment department hit back insisting the country meets European Union air quality limits.

The EU's executive body said it is targeting the "significant and persistent" exceeding of limits for health-damaging nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

The European court of justice (ECJ) has the power to impose multimillion euro fines if the countries do not address the problem swiftly.

"This announcement is good news for all those suffering from chronic air pollution", said Ms Lucas.

However, whilst the government has been keen to highlight that air quality is improving in some parts of the country, the announcement from Brussels has prompted criticism from several corners. A supplement to the national Air Quality Plan is now being formulated by the government. "We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive clean air strategy".

"Addressing the UK's toxic air should be more than just a box-ticking exercise". The citizens deserve to know what is being done to protect them from polluted air. "It is simply not acceptable that over 40,000 lives are being cut short each year because the government is too timid to take the necessary action".

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"We have said that this Commission is one that protects".

"This long-overdue announcement shows governments they can not go on allowing citizens to be poisoned by toxic air", Julia Poliscanova from sustainable transport group Transport & Environment, said in an email. Action is also being taken against France, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Romania.

For the EU Commission, they had sent similar warnings to Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic but these countries had managed to hand in a set of actions believed to be sufficient to curb air pollution and emissions.

ClientEarth, the environmental group which has taken three successful court cases against the United Kingdom government over air pollution regulations, was quick to applaud the EC announcement. But it shouldn't have taken so long. Toxic air results in more than 400,000 early deaths across Europe each year.

"It is disappointing that not all nine countries called in for a meeting with the Commission in January have been referred today". But Commissioner Vella emphasised that they are not "off the hook" and the Commission will be monitoring their implementation progress closely.

"Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air, and when national governments fail to deliver EU protections, it's right that the European Commission steps in to protect us from the air we breathe".

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