LONDON (Reuters) - The British government announced on Tuesday it was launching a new plan which aims to reduce air pollution and its costs on society by 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) a year by 2020.
The new plan comes just days after the European Commission said it would take Britain and five other European Union member states to the EU Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality limits.
Under the EU's Air Quality Directive, member states were supposed to comply with nitrogen dioxide emission limits in 2010 - or by 2015 if they delivered plans to deal with high levels of the gas, which is produced mainly by diesel engines.
The Commission said Britain had failed to respect curbs on nitrogen dioxide which is associated with respiratory and other illnesses.
The government said its plan was on top of a 3.5 billion pound plan to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles set out in July last year.
It would aim to halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above World Health Organisation limits, the government said.
In addition, legislation will be introduced to give local authorities powers to improve air quality and ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels were available for sale.
The government will also take action to tackle ammonia from farming by requiring farmers to invest in infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions.
It said it would reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated 1 billion pounds a year by 2020, rising to 2.5 billion pounds a year from 2030.
The new strategy drew criticism from some lawmakers and environmental groups.
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, said the details of the plan looked "extremely underwhelming" and failed to be backed up with cash.
($1 = 0.7419 pounds)
(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Richard Balmforth)