Press release: 13 September 2023

MEPs back air quality law: EU people ‘one step closer’ to breathing healthy air

Today the European Parliament voted in favour of a clean air law that supports people’s right to breathe healthy air.

Despite MEPs voting to align EU air quality limits with expert recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), the victory was bittersweet as the Parliament voted to delay alignment until 2035 – five years later than what its Environment Committee had previously recommended.

The vote is part of the ongoing process to reform the Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) – the bloc’s core air quality law.

ClientEarth lawyer Emma Bud said: “Today’s vote brings people in the EU one step closer to securing their right to breathe healthy air. Setting stricter legal limits in line with the WHO’s recommendations is paramount to protect people from dangerous levels of air pollution. But MEPs’ decision to push back the deadline means people will have to wait until 2035 – over a decade from now – to benefit from this.”

The European Parliament also voted to empower people to go to court when public authorities fail to protect their health from dirty air. New access to justice rules will finally give citizens the tools to hold their governments to account if they breach the law. Meanwhile, a groundbreaking new compensation right will mean people made ill by illegal levels of air pollution stand a chance of claiming justice from their governments who have failed to protect them.

Bud added: “Across the EU, citizens are crying out for their governments to protect them from harmful levels of air pollution. It’s great to see the European Parliament giving them the legal tools they need to better protect their health. It’s democracy in action.”

The Council of the EU must now quickly adopt its position, known as a General Approach, so that the law can go to trilogues and be concluded before the EU elections next June.


Notes to editors:
About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.