Air pollution has been one of the European Union's main environmental policy concerns since the late 1970’s. Sustained efforts to reduce emissions of air pollutants in the EU enabled broad compliance with several of the commonly agreed EU air quality standards, for example for carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, lead, and several other pollutants that are harmful for human health. Steep reductions in sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions helped ensuring that the most serious urban smog and acid rain episodes no longer occur at the rate and intensities we have seen in the past. Despite these successes, air pollution remains the number one environmental cause of death in the EU, still leading to about 400.000 premature deaths each year in the EU due to elevated levels of fine particles and ozone. Air pollution also continues to harm our ecosystems as more than halve of the EU territory is exposed to excess nitrogen deposition and ozone concentrations. This causes reduced bio-diversity, crop yields and other material damage. EU environmental policy focuses on developing and implementing a clean air policy framework that reinforces national policies for those aspects of the air quality problem that Member States cannot handle effectively or efficiently alone. Our policies also aim at implementing the Union's international obligations in the field of air pollution, and on integrating environmental protection requirements into, for example, the industry, energy, transport and agriculture sectors. To underpin this, the European Commission carried out a comprehensive review of the EU air quality policy framework between 2011 and 2013. This review also considered strategic options for addressing the main outstanding problems. The associated impact assessment confirmed that the benefits of clean air policies continue to significantly exceed the cost of action. Public consultations furthermore confirmed that clean air policies are broadly supported by the EU citizens as well as many industrial stakeholders. As a result, the Commission put forward an Air Quality Policy Package in 2013, including legislative proposals that are presently being considered by the European Parliament and Council. The main elements of this air quality policy package, i.e. the air pollutants it focuses on, their respective sources and origins, the scope for taking action and the benefits this would render for health, economy and environment are summarised in the a Cleaner air for all info-graphic.

Many European Union Member States are still falling short of agreed air quality standards and the air pollution guidelines of the UN World Health Organisation are generally not being met.

The Met Office - the UK’s National Weather Service formed in 1854 is located in Exeter in the beautiful county of Devon. It became part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy following the merger of Business Innovation and Skills  and the Department of Energy and Climate Change on the 14 July 2016.

Pollution Forecast Provided By The Met Office

European Union Commission issues 'final warning' to UK over breaches of air pollution

A copy of the press release on Air Pollution dated 15 February 2017

European Union dilutes proposal to halve air pollution deaths due to UK lobbying

Air Pollution plans cannot be delayed the High Court tells the UK Government

European Union backs stricter air quality against the dirtiest power plants

Check the air quality in your town or City

The UK government has lost yet another court case over its failure to tackle air pollution. The government was supposed to unveil its latest plans to tackle nitrogen dioxide pollution on Monday 24 April – plans that it was ordered to produce after losing two long-running court cases brought by campaign group Client Earth. But on Friday 21 April, the government made a last-minute application to delay publication until after the UK’s general election on 8 June, claiming it would violate election propriety if they were unveiled earlier. Its application was largely rejected on 27 April. The judge ruled the plans might affect local elections being held on 4 May, but said the draft plans must be published on 9 May. In many towns in the UK, nitrogen dioxide frequently exceed legal limits that came into effect in 2010 as part of EU regulations. Several other EU countries have been – or are being – sued for their failure to comply with the limits. Nitrogen dioxide is not as harmful as particulate pollution, but may still be responsible for several thousand premature deaths each year in the UK alone. The UK does meet limits for particulate pollution but these limits are much laxer. The EU limits allow twice as much particulate pollution as the World Health Organization recommends, whereas the limits for nitrogen dioxide match those recommended by the WHO. There is some evidence that nano-particles may be the most dangerous form of air pollution, and existing laws do not impose any effective limits on their levels. In fact, levels of nano-particles could be increasing in European countries due to the rising number of diesel vehicles. Client Earth is also threatening to take the UK to court for failing to comply with the 2008 Climate Act, under which it is legally bound to slash greenhouse emissions.

Article by Michael Le Page in the New Scientist on the 27 April 2017  

Government spent £365,000 fighting losing battle against air pollution claims

The Government spent £365,000 trying unsuccessfully to fight legal claims that its plans for tackling dangerous levels of air pollution were insufficient, a freedom of information request from The Independent has revealed. Many areas of the country breach European limits for nitrogen dioxide – a harmful gas produced largely by diesel vehicles – and the UK Government is obliged under European Union law to reduce pollutant levels in "the shortest time possible". Pollution killed 50,000 people in the UK in 2015, according to a report published in the Lancet last week, and MP’s in 2016 declared the toxicity of Britain's air a "public health emergency". The extended legal battle cost the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs £278,476 in defence fees, a response to a freedom of information request by The Independent showed. It spent a further £86,000 on costs paid to ClientEarth after it lost both cases.

The Independent 24 October 2017

Science News September 23rd 2020. A University of Liverpool study of air pollution in the UK during the first 100 days of lock-down has revealed that whilst nitrogen oxide levels were cut by half, levels of sulphur dioxide increased by over 100%. Read

Asphalt on roads may soon be a greater source of air pollution than cars

Asphalt, also known as bitumen, is a major source of air pollution, especially in sunny and hot places. For one kind of harmful particulate pollution, asphalt emissions from roads and roofs may be a bigger problem than emissions from all petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.

New Scientist 2 September 2020

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