Saturday

29th Apr 2017

London street uses 2016 air pollution quota in one week

  • Putney High Street in London: more pollution in the first eight days than is allowed in all of 2016 (Photo: stevekeiretsu)

Just a week into the New Year, a street in south-west London has already exceeded its pollution budget for 2016.

Under EU air quality rules, Putney High Street was allowed to break the limit on its level of nitrogen dioxide concentrations on no more than eighteen occasions this year.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

On Friday morning (8 January) a monitoring station registered the ceiling being broken for the nineteenth time.

While symbolic of the difficulties governments have with keeping the air clean, it is not a record. Last year Oxford Street used up its permitted breaches within four days.

London has been unable to stay under EU nitrogen dioxide ceilings since they were put in place in 2010. Nitrogen dioxide is mostly produced by traffic, in particular by diesel cars.

But the United Kingdom is not alone in its failure to reduce pollution.

By December, the European Commission had opened infringement procedures for failure to comply with nitrogen dioxide limits against six of the largest EU states: Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.

Ceilings for particulate matter are ignored on an even larger scale. The commission has opened procedures against 16 of the EU's 28 member states – more than half of the countries. Two of them, Poland and Bulgaria, have been taken to court.

There is an extra dimension to the UK's struggle to improve air quality.

In 2014, the EU Court of Justice ruled that the UK Supreme Court could order the government to do more in the battle against air pollution. The British court has since told Whitehall that it should come up with a new plan, which it did last month.

But according to environmental law firm ClientEarth, the plan was not ambitious enough. It said it would sue the government again, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, 2016 will see discussions in Brussels between national governments and the European Parliament on new air pollution limits for the period 2020-2030.

The two sides will discuss targets for each country in private meetings mediated by the EU Commission.

With only one side being responsible for the execution of plans that keep air pollution limits below those targets, tough negotiations can be expected. Some countries argue that it is better to set targets that are “realistic”.

Meanwhile, an estimated 430,000 Europeans die prematurely every year because of the health problems caused by air pollution.

And while some progress has been made, for example in Putney High Street, where the annual overshooting went down from 2,768 times in 2011 to 1,329 last year, it still has a long way to go.

The place of the breach is ironic, since the Putney district is known historically for its clean air.

In 1903, author John Cunningham Geikie described the district in The Fascination of London, calling it “one of the pleasantest of the London suburbs”.

“The immense increase in the number of houses in late years testifies to its popularity; but there is still an almost unlimited extent of open ground which cannot be covered; and with wood and water, common and hill, there will always be an element of freshness and openness in Putney seldom to be obtained so near London,” Geikie wrote.

Over a century later, the district no longer appears to quite live up to Geikie's description, with regards to air quality at least.

MEPs snub regulation of cow methane

Methane is second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. But MEPs voted to exclude "enteric methane," which is 80 to 85 percent of agriculture's share of emissions.

Column / Crude World

Nord Stream 2: The elephant in the room

The European Commission should provide a thorough impact assessment of Nord Stream 2, a project that appears to go against all of its Energy Union objectives.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  2. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  3. One year later: EU right to open Internet still virtual
  4. Rethinking Europe's relationship with Turkey
  5. Mob storms Macedonian parliament
  6. MEPs retain secrecy on office spending
  7. May accuses EU-27 of 'lining up against Britain'
  8. Resurrected Renzi to regain leadership of Italy's ruling party