In order to control deadly nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions and avoid unlimited fines from European Union, the UK government is likely to force local authorities to ban heavily polluting traffic in most British cities. However, a consultation document released by Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] days before admits that Britain will not be able to meet its statutory EU air quality target in some places until 2025.
To it, Britain has reduced its nitrogen oxide emissions by 39% between 2000 and 2009, and 95% of UK roads assessed are currently expected to meet the NO2 limits by 2015. Some parts of 30 of the 31 air quality areas require additional time to meet the limit values.
Meanwhile, many environmental groups termed the official ‘confession’ made by the government as ‘cynical’ and warned that Britain will have to legal action from the European commission in the months leading up to the London 2012 Olympics. EU has the power to impose an unlimited lump sum and daily fines.
Britain’s air quality record is among the worst in Europe and is already breaking European law for particulate, pollution and nitrogen dioxide. It is reported to have been the cause for around 4,300 premature deaths in London every year. Besides, the poor air quality increases risks of heart attacks, asthma attacks and respiratory illness. Even government estimates say the costs of air pollution in the UK are equivalent to between £9bn and £19 billion a year.
Under these circumstances, the aforementioned ban becomes inevitable.