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Diesel vehicles targeted as European court rules on UK NO2 levels

Date: 28 November 2014

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the UK Government must put actions in place to clean up its air quality, which could mean more restrictions for diesel and heavy goods vehicles in city centres.

The ECJ has now ruled that the UK must meet targets "as soon as possible" to force Government to put measure in place to meet an as yet undetermined deadline.

The case was brought by ClientEarth, a group of activist lawyers campaigning for cleaner air and the ECJ is expected to rule on a deadline for the UK next year.

ClientEarth blames diesel vehicles for the high levels of NO2 and has said a new deadline could lead to policies like London Mayor Boris Johnson's proposals for an Ultra Low Emission Zone in the capital from 2020 being rolled out nationally.

Johnson unveiled plans earilier this year to introduce an ultra low-emissions zone for London in 2020, which will see more polluting diesels pay an extra £10 on top of the current £11.50 congestion charge to enter the capital.

Alan Andrews, ClientEarth lawyer, said: "This ruling is a big victory for the millions of people who want to live healthy lives in the UK's towns and cities. This will force the Government to finally take this issue seriously and come up with an urgent plan to rid our towns and cities of cancer-causing diesel fumes."

ClientEarth has also called for changes to the carbon dioxide-based motoring tax system - company car tax, capital allowances and Vehicle Excise Duty - that favour diesel vehicles over petrol-engine equivalents.

ClientEarth's legal case refers to 16 zones in the UK where NO2 limits are being breached: West Midlands Urban Area, Greater Manchester Urban Area, West Yorkshire, Teesside, The Potteries, Kingston Upon Hull, Southampton, Glasgow, Eastern England, South East England, East Midlands, North West and Merseyside, Yorkshire and Humberside, West Midlands, North East England and Greater London Urban Area.