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New air quality data show Brussels fails to take air pollution seriously

Brussels has failed to tackle air pollution in the capital with levels continuing to exceed legal limits of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) according to new figures.

Under the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive, each Member State must submit annual air quality measurements to the Commission.

The data shows that, yet again, Brussels has breached the legal limit for NO2 (40 µg/m3), with annual pollution levels for 2016 (48 µg/m3) even higher than those recorded in 2015 (45 µg/m3).

The statistics reveal air quality in the city has not improved in any significant way since 2011 and indicates a total lack of ambition and urgency from the Brussels government when it comes to protecting people’s health.

ClientEarth lawyer, Ugo Taddei said: “The data once again shows that the Brussels authorities are completely failing to protect people from air pollution.

“A step change is needed: the regional government must adopt a real air quality plan and implement ambitious and effective measures to bring air pollution below dangerous levels as soon as possible.”

ClientEarth, along with five local residents, is pursuing court proceedings against the Brussels regional authorities on this basis. The environmental lawyers are pushing for an air quality plan that will tackle illegal pollution, and for accurate air quality monitoring and reporting. A hearing will be held in Brussels on 16 November 2017.

Independent measurements carried out by ClientEarth earlier this year revealed alarming flaws in the official monitoring network and showed that the Brussels authorities are hiding the real state of the air in the capital.

The Brussels government announced this month that it will implement the first stage of its planned Low Emission Zones (LEZs) as of 1 January 2018, meaning the oldest vehicles (diesel cars Euro 0 and Euro 1) will be banned from circulating within the capital.

However, this decision will be unlikely to have any tangible effect on air quality as only 9% of cars in Brussels are Euro 0 and Euro 1 standard. With the strictest Euro 6 stage coming into force only in 2025, Brussels citizens will continue to be exposed to illegal levels of pollution for many years to come.

One of the claimants, Karin De Schepper said: “There is no longer any scientific disagreement: air pollution reduces lung function in children, makes conditions such as asthma worse and exposes every citizen to a greater risk of developing heart and lung diseases. Despite all we know about this issue, there is still no action from our elected politicians to inform the population properly.”

Lies Craeynest, another claimant added: “Weak measures by Brussels authorities are bringing no real change. What will it take for those in charge to address Europe’s biggest public health crisis? We have no choice but to breathe the air. It is our right for that to be clean.”

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Samuel Foster

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