Thursday, 24 May, 2018


European Union takes six countries to court over air pollution

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella launched the legal action in Brussels on Thursday EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella launched the legal action in Brussels on Thursday. Credit Fracois Lenoir Reuters
Bennie Garza | 17 May, 2018, 21:11

The six are accused of failing to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels. Three other polluters were put on notice for now.

As well as the UK, France and Germany, all of whom are being pursued due to their failure to meet NO2 limits, Hungary, Italy, and Romania have been referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter.

"The commission had to conclude that. that the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible, and therefore are being referred to court", Vella said.

Commissioner Vella said it was the Commission's responsibility to ensure people could breathe clean air. Our decision follows through on that claim. The Commission has therefore made a decision to proceed with legal action.

He said: "The news that the European Commission will be taking the UK Government to court for risky levels of air pollution should be a wake-up call".

The European Commission on Thursday referred six member states to the European Court of Justice for repeated failures to tackle air pollution.

Namely they are France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Britain.

But many member states, especially in major cities, regularly have air pollution far beyond these limits.

However, a country may overstep this daily standard up to 35 times a year.

"In the agglomeration of București, the daily limit values have been persistently exceeded, ever since the European Union law became applicable to Romania, and in 2016 on 38 days", said the EC in a statement.

Air pollution leads to more than 400,000 early deaths in Europe every year. Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic dodged that fate for now. The Commission should have made no exceptions and referred them all.

The Commission said it was standing up for the right of citizens to breath clean air. Bulgaria and Poland, which have also failed to take action, have already been taken before the top court.

"Indeed this announcement from the European Commission is an extremely powerful reminder of just how much we'd miss the EU enforcement powers when it comes to environmental protection if Brexit happens".

It issued additional letters of formal notice to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom over their failure to "have effective and dissuasive penalty systems in place to deter auto manufacturers from breaking the law". The nations have two months to reply to prevent action from being escalated.

However, whilst the government has been keen to highlight that air quality is improving in some parts of the country, the announcement from Brussels has prompted criticism from several corners.

Especially in Germany, where the auto industry is considered one of the backbones of the country's economy, this decision might cause ripples.

"We can't possibly wait any longer".

Greenpeace Germany traffic expert Tobias Austrup, in response to Merkel's statement, warned that "the German government is giving the auto companies ineffective measures" to fight air pollution.

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