Quantcast

Six European Countries Could Face Multi-Million Euro Fines Over Air Pollution

Health + Wellness
Air pollution in Paris in December, 2016 as seen from Montmartre. Tangopaso / Wikimedia Commons

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.


EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Gretchen Goldman

The Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel has released their consensus recommendations to the EPA administrator on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. The group of 20 independent experts, that were disbanded by Administrator Wheeler last October and reconvened last week, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, has now made clear that the current particulate pollution standards don't protect public health and welfare.

Read More Show Less
An African elephant is pictured on November 19, 2012, in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The unprecedented drought that has caused a water crisis in Zimbabwe has now claimed the life of at least 55 elephants since September, according to a wildlife spokesman, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maria Dornelas.

By John C. Cannon

Life is reshuffling itself at an unsettling clip across Earth's surface and in its oceans, a new study has found.

Read More Show Less
An Exxon station in Florida remains open despite losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Florida Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Withers

The country's largest fossil fuel company goes on trial today to face charges that it lied to investors about the safety of its assets in the face of the climate crisis and potential legislation to fight it, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
El Niño's effect on Antarctica is seen in a tabular iceberg off of Thwaites ice shelf. Jeremy Harbeck / NASA

El Niños are getting stronger due to climate change, according to a new study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Julia Ries

  • Antibiotic resistance has doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Additionally a new study found one patient developed resistance to a last resort antibiotic in a matter of weeks.
  • Health experts say antibiotic prescriptions should only be given when absolutely necessary in order to avoid growing resistance.

Over the past decade, antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the greatest public health threats.

Read More Show Less
Pexels


There are hundreds of millions of acres of public land in the U.S., but not everyone has had the chance to hike in a national forest or picnic in a state park.

Read More Show Less
Workers attend to a rooftop solar panel project on May 14, 2017 in Wuhan, China. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

By Simon Evans

Renewable sources of electricity are set for rapid growth over the next five years, which could see them match the output of the world's coal-fired power stations for the first time ever.

Read More Show Less