Germany taken to court over air pollution

Germany’s Federal government is being taken to court over illegal levels of air pollution.

Lawyers at ClientEarth and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) have lodged a legal challenge with the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin and Brandenburg, in relation to what they call the ‘flawed’ national air pollution programmes that put Germany on track to miss legal targets for four out of five pollutants in 2030.

Since 2010, emissions of ammonia (NH3) in Germany have risen above legal limits, the breach among the worst in the EU. The country has also admitted that, without a major revamp of its pollution policy, it is on track to miss its 2030 legal targets for ammonia, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Ammonia is a particular problem because of its ability to spread across countries and the UK’s recent spring particle episodes

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: ‘This essential law is set to halve the health impacts of air pollution in the EU by 2030, cutting premature deaths related to dirty air by over 50% – if governments work to enforce it. Yet, once again, Germany’s response to this law is a pale reflection of the legal requirements.

‘It’s absolutely vital governments take their responsibilities seriously. A box-ticking exercise does not constitute ambitious national action to protect our lungs and, as we have proved, we will not shy away from challenging poor action on air quality in court.’

Berlin

In related news, the European Commission has warned the Bulgarian and Polish governments with legal action for blocking people from going to court over air pollution concerns.

The commission says neither of the two countries has ensured that people concerned by exceedances of the air pollution limits under Directive 2008/50/EC  are allowed to bring an action before the national courts.

They also say that environmental organisations in the two countries are currently not allowed to challenge the consistency of an air quality plan and to require public authorities to establish air quality plans as the Directive requires.

The announcement follows a complaint submitted last year by ClientEarth, that called on the European Commission to take action against the governments of the two countries for ‘systemic access to justice barriers.’

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