In the same week that the European Commission announced it would take six countries to court for breaking air pollution limits, three major cities said they would start legal action against the EU executive. They accuse the Commission of giving in to automotive lobbies. EURACTIV’s partner La Tribune reports.
Condemned in January for failing to comply with European standards for air quality, Paris, Brussels and Madrid are now taking the European Commission to court.
The three European capitals are seeking to bring a joint action for the annulment of the European regulation on nitrogen emissions (NOx) from diesel cars.
The Commission is under fire because several European capitals accuse it of double standards.
They acknowledge the EU executive has taken measures to tackle pollution from cars with the 2016/646 directive adopted in the wake of Dieselgate, but accuse the institution of giving car manufacturers too much time to adapt to real driving emissions (RDE) tests.
The regulation adopted in 2007 caps maximum acceptable NOx emissions from diesel cars during RDE tests at 80 mg/km. From September 2017 for new models and from September 2019 for new vehicles, NOx emissions can legally exceed the 80 mg/km by up to 110%.
From January 2020 for new models and January 2021 for new vehicles, NOx emissions can still exceed the limit imposed by up to 50%. If the cities win the case, they can impose the 80 mg/km NOx emissions limit but it will be based on new road tests.
Cities lead the way
On 4 May, the Court of Justice dismissed some 1,500 citizens, most of which were French, after they sought compensation following the adoption of the regulation.
“We need the European Union to support us, not give regulatory protection to air pollution. I am proud to stand beside the Mayors of Madrid and Brussels on behalf of millions of people from European cities, to say our voices can no longer be silenced,” said Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo.
This is the first time cities have taken joint action against the Commission.
“Cities have to be a stronghold of conscience,” said Mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena. She believes this joint action: “reveals the leading role of cities as the main experts in the problems of citizens and, therefore, the main defenders of their causes”.
In the United States, the city of New York has taken legal action against the five largest oil companies responsible for 11% of global CO2 emissions.
At the same time, 17 states have filed lawsuits against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for regressions by the Trump administration on fuel and vehicle emissions standards, which were introduced by EPA under Obama’s administration.
Hunter becomes the hunted
But the Commission was busy doling out justice on Thursday, when it finally confirmed it would launch legal proceedings against six member states for violating air quality rules.
After months of deliberation the EU executive decided that Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and the United Kingdom should be referred to the Court of Justice.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain were all granted a reprieve for now but the Commission insisted that their efforts to combat bad air quality would continue to be monitored closely.