image shows the Colloseum in Rome

ClientEarth gives Rome’s regional government air pollution deadline

ClientEarth and Greenpeace Italia have today sent a legal letter to the Lazio Regional authorities giving them 60 days to start working on the adoption of an effective plan to bring down illegal levels of air pollution – or face court action.

The two organisations highlight the failure of the authorities to come up with an effective plan to deal with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter pollution (PM10), which are still at illegal levels in Rome and across the region years after limits were introduced.

In towns and cities NO2 comes mostly from diesel vehicles, with PM10 in the south of the region coming from industry, transport and domestic heating.

Air quality management in the Italian capital’s region is worryingly flawed. The Lazio regional authority is still following a plan adopted in 2009 on the basis of previous, weaker, air quality rules than the EU Air Quality Directive, which entered into force in 2010. The plan is now mostly obsolete and over its eight years of existence has failed to bring pollution below legal limits.

The letter calls on the authority to develop an air quality plan, which details effective and specific measures, lays out a detailed implementation timetable and assesses the date by which compliance will be achieved.

Air pollution is known to cause serious health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, lung conditions and cancer.

In Rome, annual average levels of NO2 are up to 50% above legal limits. PM10 is a particular problem in the Valle del Sacco, where the air quality is among the worst in Europe.

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The Italian capital’s region has a terrible record when it comes to tackling air pollution. In our work across Europe, it’s the first time that we have found an authority that has failed to introduce the mandatory air quality plan, seven years after the entry into force of the Air Quality Directive. The Lazio authorities’ disregard for their legal duties is unacceptable, as it’s the people that breathe this air everyday who are paying the price.

“We don’t have time for more excuses. If the region doesn’t act urgently, we will have no choice but to take them to court to uphold people’s right to breathe clean air.”

Italy was one of nine countries recently summoned to Brussels to explain ongoing illegal levels of air pollution to the Commission. In mid-March the Commission will report back on its next steps, with referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union a real possibility.

Andrea Boraschi, Transport Campaign Manager at Greenpeace Italy, said: “While Italy faces legal action from the European Commission, the Lazio authorities have abandoned any attempt to comply with the law. They’ve left large parts of the region suffering with illegal levels of air pollution.”

The two organisations are now waiting for a reply from the Lazio regional authority.

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Bence Boros