The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has written to the Secretary of State, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, over the UK Government's failure to implement EU air quality legislation and reduce harmful nitrogen dioxide levels.
On 17 May 2018, the European Commission announced that it was referring the United Kingdom to the Court of Justice of the EU for significant and persistent exceedances of the nitrogen dioxide limit set out in EU legislation, and for failure to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible.
On 13 June, the Sub-Committee took evidence from Katherine Nield, an environmental lawyer, and from three local authorities: Leeds, Newcastle and Oxford. The meeting explored what the barriers had been to the UK implementing the legislation and what the result of the referral to the Court of Justice might be.
The Committee’s concerns
Following their evidence session, the Sub-Committee have written to the Secretary of State with a number of concerns. They have asked him to explain why the UK is persistently breaching the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide and why the Government has still (eight years after the legislation came into force) failed to produce a plan that adequately addresses this issue.
Given that the UK is likely to have left the EU by the time the Court of Justice makes its ruling, Members have asked whether the Government would still comply with any ruling or pay any fine demanded. They have also asked what systems will be in place post-Brexit to ensure the UK Government complies with air quality legislation.
Finally, the letter sets out some of the concerns expressed by local authorities over a lack of support from Government for their efforts to reduce nitrogen dioxide and asks what steps the Government is taking to help local authorities meet the legislative requirements.