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EU takes France, Germany and others to court over air quality

17 May 2018, 07:44 | Devin Moran

Image Shutterstock

Image Shutterstock

As part of a last-ditch effort to bring six EU Member States into line for failing to meet mandated air quality standards, the European Commission on May 17 referred Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Hungary, and Romania to Europe's highest court after they failed to comply at an earlier stage.

Germany, France, Italy, Romania, and Hungary have also been referred to the court for breaching pollution levels.

The European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, said the decision follows through on a threat to the Member States in question that they had received an ample number of final warnings over the last decade to improve the situation.

In January, the nine countries were found to regularly exceed emissions limits set to protect Europeans against particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both pollutants.

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".

It could see the government hit with a multimillion pound fine by the European Court of Justice.




"We will shortly build on our £3.5 billion plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy setting out a wide range of actions to reduce pollution from all sources". But Vella also admitted that "legal action alone will not solve the problem".

Action against the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain has not been pursued as measures being put in place in each of the countries, "appear to be appropriate, if implemented" the Commission has claimed.

The decision fires the starting gun on a race to bring Britain back in line with air pollution limits before European Union judges in Luxembourg impose hefty fines in the form of a daily penalty or lump sum.

"The UK needs a new Clean Air Act fit for the 21st Century and targeted action, like scrappage schemes and clean air zones which keep the dirtiest vehicles out of our most polluted towns and cities". But ministers refused to make them compulsory, instead making them a voluntary and last-resort option for local authorities.

The Commission also escalated a set of ongoing infringement cases against Germany, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg over their follow-up to the Dieselgate emissions scandal by seeking further clarification on their decision not to levy penalties against carmakers.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, industry commissioner said: "We will only succeed in fighting urban air pollution if the vehicle sector plays its part".



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