Commission takes six states to Europe’s highest court over air quality

Published by Aoife Cusack on

May 22nd, 2018

The European Commission is taking six of its member states to court for breaching agreed EU rules in relation to air pollution.

The Commission has referred France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the UK to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for persistently failing to meet air quality standards.

The member states in question have failed to adequately reduce emission from both Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM10). High levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air mostly result from road traffic and industry.

In 2016, annual concentration reports of nitrogen dioxide recorded in Germany, France and the UK displayed levels double the maximum standard set by EU laws on ambient air quality.

Air pollution continues to be the number one environmental cause of early death in the EU, with estimates of more than 400,000 premature deaths per year.

Hungary, Italy, and Romania are being referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter, which is mainly present in emissions from industry and domestic heating.

In Hungary, Italy and Romania, air quality readings showed levels of Particulate Matter exceeding the maximum in 2016 for a total of 89, 76 and 38 days respectively.

Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella said the decision to refer Member States to the ECJ has been taken “on behalf of Europeans”.

“We have said that this Commission is one that protects. Our decision follows through on that claim,” he added.  “The Member States referred to the Court today have received sufficient ‘last chances’ over the last decade to improve the situation.”

European Commission Bayer Monsanto

European Commission Photo: LIBER EUROPE

Vehicle type approval laws

The Commission is also issuing letters of formal notice to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom for disregarding EU vehicle type-approval laws.

The letter is a request for information and is the first step on the infringement ladder. It must be answered within a specified period, usually two months.

The letters were issued after new cases of engine-management irregularities were discovered in several diesel cars (Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and several Audi A6 and A7 vehicles).

EU type-approval legislation requires Member States to have effective, penalty systems in place to prevent car manufacturers from breaking the law.

The Commission is asking Germany and Luxembourg, as the competent type-approval authorities, which remedial measures and penalties are envisaged.

The Commission is also requesting clarifications from the United Kingdom on planned national legislation.

The Commission opened infringement proceedings against Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom in December 2016 with regard to Volkswagen Group and sent complimentary letters of formal notice in July 2017 requesting further clarifications.

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Aoife Cusack

Aoife is a final year journalism and Irish student at DCU. She appreciates the environment, the Irish language and a good cup of coffee.