Post-Brexit UK must keep new EU laws that will cut deadly air pollutants and save lives, warn Labour MEPs

Labour MEPs will vote tomorrow for new EU laws that will cut in half the 50,000 premature British deaths that result from the deadliest air pollutants.

The measures in a revised National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NECD) will cut dangerous pollutants that contribute to more than 400,000 premature deaths in the EU each year and cost national governments between €300-900 billion (£260-770bn) every year in health-related costs.

The European Parliament is expected to back the proposals, which include binding emission targets for 2030 on five deadly pollutants.

Seb Dance MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on the environment and Socialists and Democrats Group lead negotiator on the NECD, said:

“We are at a critical juncture for the UK’s environment and public health policy. The vast majority of our environmental protections, including air pollution limits, are derived from EU legislation – the government must move to assure the public there will not be a bonfire of these protections upon leaving the EU.”

Under the measures, for the first time, all polluting sectors – including agriculture – will take responsibility for what they emit.

The final deal, however, falls short of the level of ambition called for by the European Parliament in October last year, following difficult negotiations with national governments. A ‘coalition of the unwilling’, led by the British government, blocked a range of measures including emission targets for methane and binding interim targets for 2025, and forced through a number of flexibilities which could make the targets more difficult to enforce.

Seb Dance MEP added:

“We desperately need ambitious and binding limits on these deadly air pollutants to force the British government to properly address this invisible killer, which is claiming 50,000 British lives every year. These new rules will halve that number by 2030.

“Unfortunately, government ministers have worked extremely hard to water down these measures at every opportunity, leading a coalition of the unwilling to undermine them from the very start. There’s no denying that Parliament wanted greater ambition and EU countries can and should do more.

“But faced with the intransigence of Member States and the urgency of the problem, this was not a time for principled opposition that would have seen the legislation kicked into the long grass by national governments.”