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European Commission sues Britain for busting air pollution limits

Published on Feb 20, 2014 10:23 PM

LONDON (REUTERS) - The European Commission is taking legal action accusing Britain of exceeding limits on air pollution from traffic, forcing the UK to introduce tougher curbs or face fines over what is known to cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.

The case, introduced on Thursday, says Britain breached EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, which cause breathing and other health problems, and gives it two months to respond.

The move ratchets up pressure on Britain following a ruling in May last year in the country's Supreme Court, which found it was breaking the EU Air Quality Directive and asked the European Court of Justice for guidance, due later this year.

"We have the right to breathe clean air and the government has a legal duty to protect us from air pollution," said Mr James Thornton, chief executive of environmental law firm ClientEarth, which brought the action in the Supreme Court.

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