The European Commission will take France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and Britain to the EU Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality limits, the EU executive said on Thursday.
"The member states referred to the Court today have received sufficient "last chances" over the last decade to improve the situation", Commissioner for Environment, KarmenuVella, explained.
In January, the nine countries were found to regularly exceed emissions limits set to protect Europeans against particulate matter and azote dioxide, both pollutants.
"The UK needs a new Clean Air Act fit for the 21st Century and targeted action, like scrappage schemes and clean air zones which keep the dirtiest vehicles out of our most polluted towns and cities".
Today's announcement should surprise no one, the countries being sent to the court have had too many final warnings", said European Environmental Bureau Air Quality Policy Officer Margherita Tolotto, who added that "it is essential to understand why some governments, but not others. have been sent to court today.
Air pollution leads to more than 400,000 early deaths in Europe every year.
37 of the UK's 43 air quality zones don't meet European Union nitrogen dioxide limits, all of which should have fallen within safe limits by 2010. While being most acute in London, illegal levels of air pollution is a problem across the UK. "We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive clean air strategy".
Action against the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain has not been pursued as measures being put in place in each of the countries, "appear to be appropriate, if implemented" the Commission has claimed. The Commission should have made no exceptions and referred them all.
The Luxembourg-based court can impose heavy fines.
It is unclear when the ECJ's jurisdiction over the UK's environmental concerns will end following Brexit.
Also on Thursday, in the continuing fall-out from the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal, the European commission issued renewed warnings to the UK, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg over their alleged failure to "have effective and dissuasive penalty systems in place to deter auto manufacturers from breaking the law".
The four countries now have two months to reply before further infringement action will be taken.
Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowskaadded: "We will only succeed in fighting urban air pollution if the vehicle sector plays its part".
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Watch the Call of Duty
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