Budapest, Hungary

Budapest government faces legal challenge over dismal air quality plan

Environmental organisations have taken legal action against the authorities of Hungary’s capital, Budapest over illegal and harmful levels of air pollution in the city.

The challenge, brought by Hungarian environmental organisation Clean Air Action Group (CAAG), is supported by the environmental legal charity ClientEarth and the Hungarian Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA).

The organisations argue that the current air quality plan for Budapest and the surrounding capital region will not reduce levels of air pollution in the city to within legal limits in the shortest time possible, as required by Hungarian and EU law.

CAAG has filed a complaint to the Budapest-Capital Administrative and Labour Court, requesting it obliges the Budapest authority to draft a concrete air quality plan and enforce its implementation.

Andras Lukács, Chairman of the Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) said: “We are convinced that the air quality plan would be an excellent opportunity to impose compulsory measures and to demand their effective implementation to drastically reduce air pollution that is harmful to our health.”

ClientEarth lawyer Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan said: “As a member of the European Union, Hungary is obliged by law to respect the standards set out in the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive. In reality, Budapest’s air quality plan is vague and inadequate to improve the situation at the speed the law requires.”

Budapest is one of the most polluted capital cities in Europe for some of the major pollutants as a result of transport emissions and domestic heating. In 2016, the daily limits of particulate matter (PM10 ) in Budapest were exceeded for 46 days. PM10 are fine particles, which can be drawn deep into the lungs.

The annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a harmful gas, was breached as well, reaching an average of 45.9 µg/m3 at one of the monitoring stations in the capital. Hungary is also one of six EU countries facing ongoing European Commission infringement proceedings concerning PM10 and NO2 breaches.

ClientEarth is supporting similar legal actions in several other Central Eastern European countries. Courts in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have already called for new air quality plans in Prague and Bratislava, respectively, ruling that their plans to clean up air pollution are vague and ineffective.

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Dan Novac

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