This week (26 September), Prague has become the second city in the Czech Republic to be the subject of legal action from ClientEarth for breaching EU air pollution laws.
The environmental law organisation has been taking governments to court over failings to comply with air pollution laws, and it is teaming up with stakeholders and residents in Prague to take action in the Czech capital.
ClientEarth is now legally active on air pollution in five European countries. The organisation is taking the UK government back to court over illegal levels of air pollution, with a hearing scheduled for 18-19 October (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Last week, the organisation launched a court case in Brussels, Belgium over nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels from diesel vehicles in towns and cities (see AirQualityNews.com story). It also has court cases in Germany, Poland and now the Czech Republic, with plans for action in more European cities in the coming months.
ClientEarth has joined together with residents of Prague and environmental legal firm Frank Bold to fight for clean air in the city.
The groups claim the current plan in place to improve air quality in Prague is inadequate and should be replaced with another that includes concrete action to reduce air pollution as soon as possible.
The Czech authorities have negotiated a number of exemptions from EU air quality law and have missed deadlines on complying with them. According to ClientEarth, an estimated 10,000 early deaths each year in the Czech Republic are attributed to air pollution.
ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “This case is part of a wave of clean air cases across Europe. In the past two weeks, Brno, Brussels and now Prague have joined the list of cities where people are fighting for their right to breathe clean air.
“Governments across the EU have been far too slow in responding to the public health crisis caused by air pollution. Toxic air contributes to more than 400,000 premature deaths in the EU every year.â€?
Recent rulings by courts in other countries has shown an increasing willingness to order concrete action to clean up air pollution. In a ruling in Düsseldorf, Germany, earlier this month the authorities were ordered not to wait for federal government action but to introduce a ban on diesel vehicles on the most polluted roads by January 2018.
This comes as new findings by the World Bank estimate 5.5 million lives were lost worldwide in 2013 alone as a result of the impacts of air pollution.
Mr Thornton added: “Legal action like this can make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people. Courts in the UK and Germany have already ordered the authorities to take concrete action to clean up illegal air pollution.
“We hope for equally positive results in the Czech Republic.â€?