Polandâ€™s government will be forced to address illegal levels of particulate matter (PM10) pollution or face fines from the European Union, following a court ruling in Luxembourg this morning (22 February).
The country was found to have â€˜persistentlyâ€™ breached legal limits set out in the Ambient Air Quality Directive at the Court of Justice of the European Union since the turn of the decade.
The Directive requires member states to ensure that PM10 pollution stays below a 40 Âµg/m3 yearly mean average limit and a 50 Âµg/m3 24-hour limit, not to be exceeded more than 35 times in one year.
According to the Court, data derived from the annual reports on air quality submitted by Poland show that, between 2007 and 2015, that the country regularly exceeded the daily limit values in 35 zones and the annual limit values in nine zones.
The Court ruled that Poland must produce air quality plans that set out â€˜appropriate measures that the exceedance period can be kept as short as possibleâ€™.
Poland had argued that it had plans in place that were likely to end exceedances of the limits between 2020 and 2024. However, this was deemed insufficient by the Court, which dismissed concerns about the cost of implementing the measures sooner.
PM10 is composed of a mixture of organic and non-organic substances present in the air. It contains elements with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres which may enter the upper respiratory tract and the lungs.
PM10 pollution can occur naturally from sources including dust storms and sea spray, or from human activities such as energy generation from fossil fuels and biomass and road transport.
Todayâ€™s ruling signals a renewed focus on breaches of EU air quality legislation within Europe â€“ with the European Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella, having asked for urgent updates from nine member states to have breached limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.
Mr Vella sought assurances from the nine, which includes the UK, Czech Republic,Â Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia that steps are being taken to meet legal limits. He is expected to decide next month whether to take further legal action against some or all of the countries (see airqualitynews.com story).
Any further potential legal action against the UK government would represent a blow for ministers, who yesterday lost a third court action over steps being taken to address NO2 emissions (see airqualitynews.com story).