23 November 2016
The UK has one of the highest levels of premature deaths from nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the EU, according to a new report out today.
The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) Air Quality in Europe 2016 Report reveals that the UK trails only Italy when it comes to estimated early deaths from exposure to NO2.
The latest statistics come in the same week as the UK Government was ordered to produce new, final, plans to bring NO2 pollution under control by the High Court following ClientEarth’s successful legal challenge.
The EEA estimates that there were 11,940 premature deaths from NO2 pollution in the UK in 2013, the latest year for which data are available. NO2 in the UK’s towns and cities comes mostly from road transport.
The report reinforces the urgency of the UK Government’s task to reduce NO2 pollution, which is currently at illegal levels in 37 of 43 zones in the UK.
On Monday, ministers were ordered by a High Court judge to draw up an improved plan by July next year which must bring air pollution within legal limits.
Setting out his order in court, concluding ClientEarth’s case against the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Mr Justice Garnham gave the government until 31 July to deliver a final plan.
The judge rejected the government’s suggested timetable which would have allowed it until September of next year to produce a final plan, saying it was “far too leisurely”.
In another important development, the judge obliged the government to publish the technical data on which it was basing its plans. The original judgment in the case ruled that Defra had used over-optimistic estimates of future emissions from diesel cars.
ClientEarth’s CEO James Thornton said: “Today’s EEA report puts the UK in an unwanted position near the top of the table when it comes to premature deaths from exposure to NO2 pollution. The UK government should be ashamed of these figures and must act now to protect the health of people in this country.”
The EEA report also estimates the number of early deaths from particulate matter (PM2.5) and from Ozone (O3). It estimates these reached 37,930 and 710 respectively in the UK in 2013.
In the EU as a whole, the Agency estimated that 436,000 premature deaths were caused by PM2.5, 68,000 by NO2 and 16,000 by O3 in 2013.
The report comes as MEPs are today set to rubberstamp a new set of emissions reductions limits applicable from 2020 and 2030 for pollutants sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, non-methane volatile organic compounds, ammonia, and PM2.5.