Press release: 20 June 2019

EU’s top court to rule on Brussels air quality case

ClientEarth and five local residents will receive a ruling from the EU’s top court on their case against the Brussels Regional government over the city’s illegal air pollution on Wednesday, 26 June 2019.

The much anticipated ruling will provide further clarity in the case and pave the way to protect Brussels residents’ right to breathe clean air.

Following a hearing in November 2017, the Brussels Court of First Instance called on the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to provide further guidance before making a final decision.

The Brussels court asked the CJEU to clarify whether citizens can take authorities to court over the lack of adequate air quality monitoring stations and on how authorities should assess compliance with air quality limits.

In February 2019, the Advocate General, an independent advisor to the CJEU, published her opinion, which is designed to guide EU judges in cases that raise new points of law.

According to the Advocate General, in view of the fundamental importance of air quality laws for the protection of human life and health, national courts should carry out a full review of whether monitoring stations are correctly sited. National courts should also be able to order authorities to site monitoring stations at certain locations in order to comply with legal requirements.

The Advocate General was also strongly against the Brussels government using the average concentration of air pollution from the monitoring stations across the region to assess compliance with air quality.

Despite individual monitoring stations regularly exceeding the legal limits in Brussels, the regional government has tried to dodge the obligation to adopt an air quality plan by using instead the average concentrations across the entire area, which conveniently fall within the legal limits.

The Advocate General’s opinion is not binding. The CJEU’s ruling on Wednesday is therefore a key milestone for the ongoing action in Brussels. It will also set a binding precedent for the right of citizens across the EU to obtain reliable information on air quality.

After the ruling, the case will return to the Court of First Instance in Brussels for a final judgment.


Notes to editors:

The ruling will be handed down on Wednesday, 26 June 2019 in Luxembourg.

ClientEarth lawyer Irmina Kotiuk will be attending the ruling. A press release will be issued after the ruling.

The case number and the two preliminary questions that the First Instance Court of Brussels referred to the CJEU can are available on the Curia website: Case C-723/17.

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.