UK still being warned by the EU regarding air pollution

The UK and the city of London have been under fire for years from the European Commission because of the large contribution to overall air pollution, not just for local inhabitants. Along with many other cities across the EU, London has repeatedly failed to measure up to standards set by the Commission and the World Health Organisation, and now it appears there will be a price to pay in addition to the health care costs associated with air pollution.

According to Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik air pollution is the reason many people in the EU can’t live normal healthy lives. He went on to say that bad air quality kills more people than traffic accidents, and costs the EU anywhere from 330 billion to 940 billion euros per year. In October 2013 the European Environmental Agency published a report estimating that the life spans of 430,000 people were shortened by breathing polluted air, and 90% of those living in EU cities were doing just that.

A new package of regulations will mean that cities like London will be incurring fines to the UK if agreed standards are not met by 2020. The proposals are aimed at lowering emission levels on all the six major pollutants and also restricting emissions from alternative energy plants. The EC says that the use of biomass (wood or other plant material) instead of coal as a renewable energy source is becoming another major source of air pollution.

The worst pollutants include nitrogen oxides emitted by vehicles, sulphur dioxide (causing acid rain and acidification of soil), and the dust that comes from both vehicles and shipping and from construction (particulate matter). Potocnick’s proposals also include limits on emissions of methane and black carbon.

In answer to complaints about the cost of controlling pollution, the Commission says such measures if implemented will save the EU and the respective countries more than twelve times the cost of improvements, or about 40 billion euros, by reducing the prodigious amount spent on health care for problems related to air pollution. However the package has to be reviewed by member countries, and if enacted into law it probably won’t take effect for at least three years.