NGO ClientEarth and environmental aid association Environmental Action Germany (DUH) have launched what they claim to be the largest ever wave of air pollution lawsuits against a number of federal states in Germany.
One of those spearheading the lawsuits is ClientEarth’s clean air lawyer Alan Andrews, who is known for his work on the recent landmark case against the UK government for breaching nitrogen dioxide limits set out in the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive.
The UK Supreme Court ordered Defra to produce a new air quality plan before the end of 2015, and earlier this month ClientEarth threatened to take the case back to court unless “drastic and fundamental changes” are made to the plan (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Now, based on the same EU Directive, lawsuits have also been launched in Germany against North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hessen, which are responsible for air quality management in ten cities (Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Darmstadt, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden).
In these cities ClientEarth and the DUH claim that air pollution breaches legal limits set by the EU Directive, and the DUH intends to commit the federal states in question to change their clean air plans.
ClientEarth’s Mr Andrews said: “Everyone has the right to breathe clean air but hundreds of thousands of people across Europe die early every year because of air pollution. These cases are at the leading edge of a Europe-wide movement where people are going to court to demand action for clean air.
“These cases will pile further pressure on national governments to push for tough new emission laws in Brussels. Cities cannot solve this problem alone: the VW scandal has shown that we need tough EU emissions laws, and national governments and regulators which are prepared to enforce them.”
According to ClientEarth, an investigation by the German research centre for environmental health (GSF) has found that around 10,000 to 19,000 deaths are caused each year by particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions for diesel vehicles.
Remo Klinger, a lawyer from Kanzlei Geulen & Klinger (Berlin), who has represented DUH for ten years, said: “Air pollution is a problem not only since the VW diesel scandal broke. EU limits have been exceeded for years without effective measures taken by the authorities.”
Jürgen Resch, CEO of DUH also commented: “Effective measures have to be taken to improve the air quality in Germany. A ban of diesel vehicles in city centres must be a first step.”