The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to tackle air pollution.
It said the UK has not been able to cut “excessive levels” of nitrogen dioxide, which is a toxic gas that stems from traffic fumes.
The Supreme Court previously declared that air pollution limits were “regularly exceeded” in 16 zones across the UK. It also noted that air quality improvement plans for London will only be achieved by 2025 – 15 years after the original deadline – and in 2020 for the other 15 zones.
EU law sets limits on air pollution and NOx limits should have been achieved by January 2010 unless an extension was granted until January 2015, the Commission said. However, the UK did not present any such plan for the zones in question, it added.
The Commission has now sent a letter of formal notice to the UK, which has two months to respond.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) referred to other EU states failing to meet air quality standards and insisted it is tackling air pollution.
A spokesperson added: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades. Just like for other Member States, meeting the NO2 limit values alongside busy roads has been a challenge. That is why we are investing heavily in transport measures to improve air quality around busy roads and we are working with the Commission to ensure this happens as soon as possible.”