The UK has joined other EU countries in torpedoing a deal on new pollution legislation that could have saved thousands of lives across Europe.
Environment ministers from several larger countries, including the UK, France, Italy and Poland, refused to change their position and agree to bigger reductions in key pollutants as part of negotiations on a new law.
The only chance left to rescue the deal could now be when ministers meet in Brussels on 20 June.
National governments scupper pollution deal
ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “This is a betrayal of the millions of people across Britain and the rest of Europe who are forced to breathe deadly air pollution.”
“There was a deal on the table which would have halved the number of people killed by air pollution but national governments, including the UK, chose to scupper it by refusing to move an inch from their position.”
“Our governments have a duty to protect our health but instead they have protected the polluters.
“Ministers have a last chance to rescue a deal when they meet on 20 June. This is a golden opportunity, just days before the EU referendum, for the UK to show that it can be a leader in Europe on an issue that can only be resolved by remaining in the EU.
“Huge credit should go to the three British MEPs – Julie Girling, Seb Dance, and Catherine Bearder, who were at the heart of these negotiations and have put aside party political differences to work tirelessly together in trying to secure a deal which would deliver cleaner air for Britain. If our government would only meet them half-way, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.”
The legislation in question is the National Emissions Ceiling Directive, which sets reductions targets for each EU member state on pollutants including ammonia and particulate matter (PM2.5).