ClientEarth and five Brussels citizens are suing the government over its failure to address illegal levels of air pollution and inadequately monitor toxic air in the city.
Despite air pollution regularly exceeding the legal limits in Brussels since 2010, the regional government has tried to avoid its legal obligation to adopt an air quality plan by using legal technicalities to discard the results from individual monitoring stations that record illegal levels of nitrogen oxide (NO2) pollution.
This case launched in September 2016 after an initial court hearing in November 2017. The Brussels court asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – the EU’s highest court, to clarify whether citizens can take authorities to court over the lack of adequate air quality monitoring stations.
The CJEU ruled that citizens do indeed have the right to go to court to challenge how authorities monitor pollution.
Meanwhile, in November 2019, the European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Belgium for its failure to address illegal levels of air pollution.
In June 2019, the CJEU’s ruling also backed Brussels citizens and ClientEarth in their fight for clean air, confirming air quality must be assessed by looking at the highest measurements, not by using a city-wide average.
This means the Brussels authorities should have started to work immediately on a new plan to clean up the city’s air. However, the Brussels regional government is still refusing to improve the region’s monitoring network and to adopt the measures needed to comply with legally binding air quality standards as soon as possible.
The case has now returned to the Court of First Instance in Brussels for a final judgment, where the Brussels court is expected to communicate the date of the judgement at the end of the hearing.
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