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ClientEarth Communications

17th May 2018

Air pollution

European Commission legal action on air pollution ‘welcome but late’

The European Commission announced today that it will refer six EU countries to the Court of Justice of the European Union for their prolonged failure to address air pollution.

Reacting to the announcement, ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “We are glad that, at last, the Commission is taking serious steps to fight air pollution before the Court of Justice. But it shouldn’t have taken so long. Air pollution requires urgent action and it’s been clear for too many years that authorities all across Europe are failing to protect their people from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

“It is disappointing that not all nine countries called in for a meeting with the Commission in January have been referred today. The Commission should have made no exceptions and referred them all. There are no first class and second class citizens: all Europeans have the right to breathe clean air.

“We call on the Commission to continue show its full commitment to improve air quality in Europe and swiftly pursue all countries in breach of air quality laws.”

Currently, 26 of the 28 EU Member States breach air quality standards that have been binding for more than 8 years.

The much-awaited announcement comes after several delays from the Commission. Final warnings (so-called “reasoned opinions”) had already been issued to all nine EU countries more than a year ago. However, legal action was postponed after the Commission met with environment ministers of each of the nine countries in January. Action was further delayed in March and again in April.

The six countries facing air quality infringements are France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and the UK. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain have for now, not been referred to the Court of Justice of the EU but infringement proceedings against them remain open.