The European Commission (EC) has given the UK Government a ‘final warning’ for failing to address repeated breaches of legal limits for toxic air pollution.
It warned that if ministers fail to act within two months, it may take the matter to the European Court of Justice.
Leeds is one of 16 UK air quality zones breaching NO2 limits
The EC said 16 air quality zones in the UK have persistently breached nitrogen dioxide limit values in the EU air quality directive, including London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow.
The Commission has also issued the same warning to Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
Around 40% of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in the EU come from road traffic, although at ground-level the relative contribution of traffic is much higher. Of the total emitted NOx from traffic, around 80% comes from diesel vehicles.
The EC stressed that reducing emissions from diesel vehicles is an important step towards achieving compliance with air quality standards and that while it is up to member state authorities to choose appropriate measures, ‘much more effort is necessary at local, regional and national levels’.
Lucinda Yeadon, deputy leader of Leeds City Council said: ‘The air quality issue is one we are taking very seriously in Leeds and we have developed a strategy which includes a range of measures being implemented in the city to improve air quality and reduce emissions.
‘Together with several other major UK cities, Leeds signed a letter last week which called on the prime minister and the government to do much more on this issue, including supporting local authorities by devolving funding and powers and introducing new legislation around the regulation of all types of emissions sources, alongside aligning key priorities with the introduction of Clean Air Zones so we can tackle this together head-on.’
A Government spokesperson said: 'The Government is firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions.
'We will update our air quality plans in the spring to further improve the nation’s air quality.'