Europe denies UK air pollution delay
28 June 2012 | Alan Bouquet | Carbon management, Europe
The EU could now impose fines on the UK for breaching its air quality targets, after the government proposal to delay air pollution improvements in 12 UK cities was declined by the EU. The UK has been slow in cutting its emission of NO2, which contributes towards acid rain and causes respiratory problems in humans. It also causes ozone layer depletion.
The emissions largely come from vehicles and can cause both heart and lung problems for some people. Government statistics have also revealed the emissions reduce life expectancy by up to eight months in the UK. London is the worst offender in terms of air quality, and is ranked as the poorest of all European capitals, but many other regions of the UK are also not meeting their emissions targets, and according to the government, are unlikely to meet their targets before the 2015 deadline.
Despite the calls for a delay on action over the issue, the UK government has recognised the importance of cutting air pollution. Its own figures give the cost to the economy at around £20billion, more than obesity, but less than smoking. It is clear that the main reason for non-compliance is one of cost. To change the emission patterns of such a large swathe of the UK’s urban areas would be an expensive process, and despite the long term health benefits, the short term costs are likely to be more than the cash strapped government can currently bear.
There are however, some plans in the pipeline to improve the situation; it is hoped that a new nationwide network of low-emission zones, much like those in Germany, could be implemented. With a fine for the country now looking inevitable, it seems a low-emission network is the most logical solution.