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Brussels authorities attempt to defend inaction on air quality in court

ClientEarth has defended the right of Brussels residents to information about the quality of the air they breathe.

The case was launched in September, with five members of the Belgian public, to contest illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the Belgian capital, and inadequate monitoring that fails tocomply with EU law.

Following a court hearing today, ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The Brussels government’s hypocrisy is a disgrace. Publicly, it claims to be widening access to information through its new website “Qualité de l’air”. Yet today it fought against our call to provide reliable information on the air pollution levels of Brussels’ dirtiest streets.

“We’re confident the court’s decision will reflect the right of all Brussels residents to accurate information about the quality of the air they breathe every day.”

Brussels residents Karin de Schepper and Lies Craeynest, who lodged the complaint with three others on 21 September 2016, said in a statement: “We’re pleased with the first steps the regional government has taken in the fight against air pollution, but these must be followed by further action to ensure clean air for the people of Brussels. These efforts must be made at all levels: not only the regional government but also countywide.

“Our legal action is officially against the Brussels authorities but all political actors, regardless of the level of government at which they sit, must work together to fight air pollution.”

The aim of the case is to compel the Brussels government to put in place a plan fit to combat air pollution – complete with a timetable and robust reporting – in line with EU law.

Ugo added: “Our action, to make sure people who live and work in Brussels, know about the air they’re breathing is just the beginning. It doesn’t change the fact that pollution levels in Brussels remain illegal. Those in charge need to come up with a plan to reduce them, as quickly as possible.

“We will be at a tribunal on 16 November to push the authorities to do this. Meanwhile, we’re awaiting the conclusions from today’s hearing on air quality monitoring.”

The case is part of a wave of legal action on clean air across Europe, including cases in the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The outcome of the tribunal on monitoring is expected on 10 February.

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John-Mark Smith

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