EU takes six nations to highest court over air pollution
The UK and five other countries are being referred to the European Court of Justice over ongoing failures to tackle air pollution.
The action applies to failure to respect limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom and for failing to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible. Hungary, Italy, and Romania are referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter (PM10).
Separately, additional warnings were issued to Germany, the UK, Italy and Luxembourg for failing to take action against the millions of diesel cars with illegal defeat devices that allegedly cheated emissions tests.
The move by the European Commission comes a year after the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy were given final warnings for persistently breaching EU air quality limits while in January this year, ministers from nine countries were summoned to Brussels to explain their failure to act.
Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella said: “The decision to refer Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU has been taken on behalf of Europeans. The Member States referred to the Court today have received sufficient ‘last chances’ over the last decade to improve the situation.
“It is my conviction that today’s decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale. But legal action alone will not solve the problem. That is why we are outlining the practical help that the Commission can provide to the national authorities’ efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns.”
The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain had also received previous warnings but according to the EU, appear to be on track to redress the issues, although they are being monitored.
The news was welcomed by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). Air quality policy officer Margherita Tolotto said: “European air quality laws are being broken on a continental scale. Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air, and when national governments fail to deliver EU protections, it’s right that the European Commission steps in to protect us from the air we breathe. Today’s announcement should surprise no one, the countries being sent to court have had too many final warnings.”