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Will Munich protect people from air pollution? Court will decide

After years of delay, a German court is due to decide on Friday if regional authorities in the country are accountable for fighting illegal air pollution. The decision could have a huge impact on other clean air court cases that ClientEarth is currently pursuing with German partners Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH).

The hearing is the final stage of an appeal by the government against a ruling originally made in 2012. The region was breaking legal pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide and wouldn’t bring them below these limits before 2025 at the earliest.

The court said in 2016 the authorities must create a plan to bring pollution down to safer levels ‘as soon as possible’ or face a fine – but the regional government seem reluctant to do so, and have appealed the decision.

The case was originally brought by DUH, and is being supported by European environmental lawyers ClientEarth.

What’s the situation in Germany?

A new report by Germany’s official environment agency said there has been a 40% increase in monitoring stations registering illegal levels of NO2 in Germany since 2000. The agency recommended restrictions on diesel transport to address the situation.

ClientEarth has worked with DUH to bring several cases in Germany to help tackle toxic air across the country. If the judge rules in our favour in this appeal, it will set a significant and positive precedent for our other cases.

The cases concentrate on nitrogen dioxide, which in built-up areas comes mostly from diesel vehicles.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “We hope the court of appeal will uphold the court’s original decision. The people of Munich have been waiting long enough to breathe clean air. Urgent action is needed. It’s time for the government to get on top of the problem and take the bold steps needed to do it.”

The decision, expected on Friday, will be final. No further appeals can be made.

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