UK taken to court over air pollution failure

London will reach lower EU standard for key diesel emission a decade behind schedule

The UK is being taken to court for failing to tackle air pollution, which causes thousands of premature deaths and could have a particularly heavy impact on deep-breathing city cyclists.

According to the BBC, the EU Commission has launched proceedings against the UK because nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels are excessive in many British cities.  

Smoggy air contributes to up to 29,000 early deaths each year say campaigners.

And Newcastle University is planning a study to see what impact smoggy air has on cyclists who may breathe in more contaminants when they ride in close proximity to motor traffic. Other health benefits of cycling may far outweigh potential harm from air pollution however.

The EU is acting because the UK will fail to hit the pan-European NO2 reduction target by 2015. The government says it will hit the EU standards in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Merseyside and Glasgow by 2020 and London by 2025 – a decade after the directive will have come into effect.

The Commission says this is too long and has launched proceedings that could cost the government millions in fines.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that in 2012, 21 other member states failed to comply with the EU directive.

To cut the emissions drastically it could mean that more rigorously enforced low emission zones (LEZ) are implemented around the country and speed limits are reduced. The UK has just one LEZ – around London. Germany has 60, Alan Andrews, a lawyer with the campaign group Client Earth, told the BBC.

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