ClientEarth launches Brussels air quality case

Environmental law firm ClientEarth has launched a legal challenge to tackle air pollution in Brussels yesterday (21 September) — the latest in a series of air quality cases across Europe.


Citizens in Brussels have been breathing illegal levels of air pollution since 2010, legal firm ClientEarth has claimed

The Brussels case is against the regional government and focuses on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which in towns and cities comes mostly from diesel vehicles.

The legal challenge calls for the authorities to produce an effective plan to clean up the city’s air.

ClientEarth, which is already working with partners in Belgium, has added the case to its UK and German legal actions.

A case has also been launched in Brno in the Czech Republic with purpose-driven law firm Frank Bold, and further legal interventions are planned in the coming weeks.

According to ClientEarth, citizens in Brussels and Brno have been breathing illegal levels of air pollution since 2010. The cases, all brought before national courts but based on the EU Air Quality Directive, aim to oblige governments to take robust measures to bring air pollution within legal limits as soon as possible.

UK Government 

In a landmark 2014 judgment in the ClientEarth case against the UK Government, the European Court of Justice ruled that national courts have a duty to hold governments to account where they fail to keep pollution within legal limits (see story).

An estimated 403,000 early deaths were linked with air pollution in the EU in 2012, while toxic air has been shown to stunt lung growth in children and aggravate cardiovascular and lung conditions, the environmental law firm has claimed.

On 18 and 19 October, ClientEarth is taking the UK government back to court over its perceived failure to tackle the UK’s air quality crisis (see story).

Legal duty

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “We have successfully challenged the UK government and authorities in Germany over their failure to protect their people from air pollution. Now we are helping people in Belgium and the Czech Republic fight for their right to breathe clean air.

“Governments across Europe are failing in their legal duty to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution. We are calling on the courts to force them to put that right.

“This is a Europe-wide public health crisis that needs an immediate response at all levels: city, regional, national and EU. While this case is against the regional government in Brussels, it should also serve as a wake-up call to the national government and EU institutions that they need to step up action on air pollution — especially when it comes to emissions from diesel cars.

“For too long, the EU and national governments have put car industry interests before people’s health and the environment.”

More info 

You can hear from Alan Andrews and more at the National Air Quality Conference on 10th November at the QEII Centre, London. For more information and to secure your place, click here.


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