image of the Charles Bridge in Prague art dusk

Prague latest target of EU clean air action

Today, Prague becomes the second city in the Czech Republic to face legal action by ClientEarth and local partners for breaching EU air pollution laws.

The environmental lawyers are now legally active on air pollution in five European countries: the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Poland. More European cities will face court action in the coming months.

The Czech authorities have negotiated a number of derogations from EU air quality law and missed deadlines on complying with them. In the Czech Republic, an estimated 10,000 early deaths each year are attributed to air pollution.

Prague air pollution

Residents of Prague, legal organisation Frank Bold and ClientEarth have joined together to fight for clean air in the city. The current plan in place to improve air quality in Prague is inadequate, it should be scrapped and replaced with another which includes concrete actions to improve air pollution as soon as possible.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “This case is part of a wave of clean air cases across Europe. In the past two weeks, Brno, Brussels and now Prague have joined the list of cities where people are fighting for their right to breathe clean air.

“Governments across the EU have been far too slow in responding to the public health crisis caused by air pollution. Toxic air contributes to more than 400,000 premature deaths in the EU every year.”

Action by courts in other countries shows that they are increasingly willing to order concrete action to clean up air pollution. In a ruling in Düsseldorf, Germany, earlier this month the authorities were ordered not to wait for federal government action but introduce a ban on diesel vehicles on the most polluted roads by January 2018.

This comes as new findings by the World Bank estimate 5.5 million lives were lost worldwide in 2013 alone as a result of the impacts of air pollution. The study valued the 2013 global cost of lost labour attributed to air pollution at $225bn.

Thornton added: “Legal action like this can make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people. Courts in the UK and Germany have already ordered the authorities to take concrete action to clean up illegal air pollution.

“We hope for equally positive results in the Czech Republic.”

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Ryan Lum