The European Union is planning to take Britain to court for consistently breaching air pollution laws, which could result in unlimited daily fines. Air pollution near many roads averages well over twice the UN's World Health Organisation maximum recommended level, which has led to constant infringements of EU air quality laws.
Britain had been given six years by Europe to reduce its PM10 levels after air legislation was introduced in 1999. This passed into British law in 2005 but documents obtained by the Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) show that limits have been widely breached since then.
Nearly half of nitrogen dioxide emissions come from cars and 25% from power stations. The only feasible way that Britain can meet its new NO2 target is by tackling traffic congestion with schemes such as low emission zones, which bar the most polluting vehicles from entering areas, or congestion charging as in London.
The government plans to hold a three month consultation and then apply for a time extension to come up with ways to meet its NO2 target. Nine other EU countries are also applying for extensions.