EU issues 'final warnings' to five countries over air pollution breaches

Parts of London surpassed the EU's annual limit for nitrogen dioxide exposure in January.

Story highlights

  • Nitrogen dioxide pollution, much of it caused by diesel engines, poses a risk to health
  • Five EU nations could face court action if they don't respond to a warning over nitrogen dioxide levels

(CNN)The European Commission has issued "final warnings" to Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Britain for failing to address repeated breaches of air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide, it said Wednesday.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution, much of it caused by road traffic, represents a serious health risk.
    In a statement, the Commission said EU rules set clear pollution limits and obliged member countries to protect citizens from harmful air pollutants.
    If Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Britain fail to respond satisfactorily to the warning within two months, the Commission could take the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
    "While it is up to the Member State authorities to choose the appropriate measures to address exceeding NO2 limits, much more effort is necessary at local, regional and national levels to meet the obligations of EU rules and safeguard public health," the Commission said.
    The European Commission is currently involved in legal action over nitrogen dioxide breaches against 12 member states in total. Final warnings could also be issued to Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland and Portugal in the coming months if they don't respond satisfactorily to notice of infringements.