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Six European Countries Could Face Multi-Million Euro Fines Over Air Pollution
The European Commission confirmed in a statement Thursday that it would pursue legal action against six European countries for exceeding air pollution limits set for 2005 and 2010, Air Quality News reported.
The commission is referring France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Hungary and Romania to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which could fine them millions of euros if they do not act quickly enough to solve the problem, The Guardian reported.
According to Air Quality News, France, Germany and the UK are being brought to court for high levels of nitrogen oxide and Italy, Hungary and Romania for high levels of particulate matter.
All six nations were given a final warning in January and failed to propose pollution plans that would solve the problem quickly enough, The Guardian reported.
Air pollution kills more than 400,000 people in the EU each year.
"We have waited a long time and we cannot possibly wait any longer," European Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella, who issued the statement confirming legal action, told The Guardian. "We have said that this commission is one that protects. Our decision follows through on that claim. It is my conviction that today's decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale."
Three other countries issued warnings in January—Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic—have since adopted pollution control measures that satisfied the commission.
High levels of nitrogen oxide like those recorded in Germany, the UK and France are largely due to the use of diesel cars, for which effective exhaust scrubbing systems have not been developed as they have for diesel trucks, DW reported.
"The diesel problem hasn't been solved yet," Julia Poliscanova of the Brussels non-governmental organization Transport & Environment, told DW.
"It's really important to force car makers to improve the new Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel models," she said.
For Poliscanova, this means Germany has a lot of power to solve the problem if its government is willing to stand up to the auto industry.
"[Germany has] the largest automaker industry, and they also certify most of the cars for the EU market. They have the power to actually change something," she told DW
The UK has also faced internal criticism for its air quality. In March, a historic joint inquiry by four parliamentary committees declared it a "national health emergency."
UK lawyers ClientEarth have sued the government three times in UK court over inadequate air quality plans. The court forced the government to strengthen its 2017 plan and enforce stricter standards by the end of 2018.
"On top of our three successful cases, today's legal action from the European commission is more damning evidence of the mountain the UK government still has to climb to bring air pollution to within legal limits, " ClientEarth CEO James Thornton told The Guardian.
In 2017, a Parisian yoga teacher sued the French government over air pollution, saying her health had deteriorated when air pollution levels in the French capital broke records in December 2016, the BBC reported.
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Nestlé cannot claim that its Ice Mountain bottled water brand is an essential public service, according to Michigan's second highest court, which delivered a legal blow to the food and beverage giant in a unanimous decision.
A number of supermarkets across the country have voluntarily issued a recall on sushi, salads and spring rolls distributed by Fuji Food Products due to a possible listeria contamination, as CBS News reported.
If you read a lot of news about the climate crisis, you probably have encountered lots of numbers: We can save hundreds of millions of people from poverty by 2050 by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but policies currently in place put us on track for a more than three degree increase; sea levels could rise three feet by 2100 if emissions aren't reduced.
Poverty and violence in Central America are major factors driving migration to the United States. But there's another force that's often overlooked: climate change.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.
"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."
Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.
"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."
So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.
"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."
So he says the best way to reduce the number of climate change migrants is to help people thrive in their home countries.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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