Press release: 10 November 2020

CJEU toxic air ruling must prompt “complete turnaround” in Italy – ClientEarth

The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued a damning ruling against Italy over its long-term failure to manage toxic levels of particulate matter pollution (PM10) across the country.

The ruling says that the timelines Italy laid out for compliance – in some cases predicting legal levels nearly two decades after the 2005 legal deadline – are unjustifiable.

The ruling is particularly important as it comes from the Grand Chamber and, therefore, provides a final interpretation on the obligations of governments under EU air quality law.

ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “Italy is one of the worst countries in the EU for air quality and illegal levels of pollution have been a multi-year, nationwide emergency. This ruling is the result of years of poor management of the issue at regional and national level – a failure which has put people’s health on the line.

“This judgment should leave national leaders with no choice but to act without further delay. We need to see a complete turnaround, with new regional air quality plans that slash levels of pollution in the shortest time possible, to bring air quality within legal limits.

“Cities and Member States across the EU have been subject to legal action by civil society and by the EU itself because being forced to breathe dirty air is unacceptable in the 21st century. Now, in the face of Covid-19, we have all been reminded how important it is to protect respiratory health. We can no longer pay the price of toxic air.”

Without action to resolve the situation, Italy could face significant fines.


Paolo Riva – - +39 3358703065

Notes to editors

Of the top 10 EU cities with the highest costs stemming from dirty air, five are Italian: Milan Padua, Venice, Brescia and Turin. In Italy, air pollution costs approximately €1,535/person each year.
Source: European public health alliance (Epha) - 2020

Italy was one of only three countries in the EU to exceed legal limits for all major air pollutants in 2017: PM10, PM2.5 and NO2. The others were Romania and Bulgaria. Italy also counts the most premature deaths in the EU related to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.
Source: Air quality in Europe — 2019 report - EEA

ClientEarth is active on air pollution throughout the EU, including in Italy. In 2017, with partners Cittadini per l’Aria, we took legal action forcing the region of Lombardy to update its air quality plan.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.