Press release: 27 June 2023

MEPs “make politics about people” with pro-health vote on air quality law

The EU ENVI Committee has just voted unequivocally in favour of a clean air law that supports people’s right to health.

The adopted draft would align EU air quality limits with expert recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and empower people to go to court when public authorities fail to protect their health from dirty air.

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

The victory was narrow but the outcome is vital for human health and environmental justice, say lawyers from non-profit ClientEarth.

Clean air lawyer Emma Bud said: “It is really heartening to see MEPs finally starting to take people’s right to health seriously. By now, there is a towering body of evidence on exactly how air pollution affects the human body, with more emerging all the time.

“Making laws that do anything less than follow the science is unforgiveable at this point. That’s why we need to see those negotiating the final AAQD follow the Committee’s lead.”

ClientEarth is currently supporting individuals in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Poland to take legal action against their national governments, looking to recognise the human right to healthy air in court.

ClientEarth was pleased to see the following important amendments accepted:

  • A clarified framework for air quality plans
  • A strengthened provision granting citizens access to justice
  • A route to claiming compensation for those made sick by illegal levels of pollution – though this has been watered down during the negotiations
  • Real penalties for public authorities who fail to act to clean up the air

Bud added: “It’s time to make politics about people and make laws that genuinely protect us – otherwise what are we doing? We look forward to seeing an ambitious EU air quality law at the end of this – one that delivers justice for those who fall victim to illegal levels of air pollution. People have been waiting long enough.”

A plenary vote will likely take place in the coming weeks.


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.