The EU Commission is getting tough and has announced to take six European states, among them France, Germany, and Britain to the EU Court of Justice for failing to respect air quality limits. They had been introduced in 2005 and 2010 and warnings had preceded the case.

The EU Commission had sent letters to countries and cities exceeding air pollution levels repeatedly but with the member states having failed to act, they will now be taken to court. Overall, there are six nations facing a ruling in the Hague.

Namely they are France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Britain. The UK, France and Germany will be taken to court over their failure to meet nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, while Hungary, Italy and Romania failed to meet the standards on the level of particulate matter.

Says Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella: “The Member States referred to the Court today have received sufficient ‘last chances’ over the last decade to improve the situation. It is my conviction that today’s decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale. But legal action alone will not solve the problem. That is why we are outlining the practical help that the Commission can provide to the national authorities’ efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns.”

Whilst the states had proposed additional measures following these warnings, Vella said the EU Commission had to conclude that “the additional measures proposed are not sufficient to comply with air quality standards as soon as possible.”

Germany for example had suggested free public transport in a sort of panicky action and also decided to push responsibility for diesel bans on municipalities (we reported). Paris too is looking into a free Metro for all. In the UK, being sued to act on air pollution is nothing new. ClientEarth had taken the British government to court twice in order for them to draft their Clean Air Act reportedly.

For the EU Commission, they had sent similar warnings to Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic but these countries had managed to hand in a set of actions believed to be sufficient to curb air pollution and emissions.

The EU Commission is also issuing additional letters of formal notice to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the UK warning them that they have disregarded EU vehicle type approval rules. This EU type-approval legislation requires Member States to have “effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalty systems” in place to deter car manufacturers from breaking the law. This follows Volkswagen and the diesel emission fraud as well as the FCA scandal in Italy. The EU Commission still awaits clarification and national investigations.

europa.eu, politico.eu

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