EU states taken to court over air pollution must tackle the main cause: dirty diesels

Today’s decision to take six EU countries to court for failing to tackle repeated breaches of air quality limits is a long-overdue and welcome step, sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) had said. Germany, France and the UK for years allowed breaches of limits on toxic NO2 emissions while Italy, Romania and Hungary failed to tackle harmful and illegal levels of particulates (PM10). Separately, additional warnings were issued to Germany, the UK, Italy and Luxembourg for failing to take action against the millions of diesel cars with illegal defeat devices that allegedly cheated emissions tests.

The six countries which allowed illegal levels of emissions had received warnings from the European Commision and had the opportunity to submit a set of “credible, timely and effective” measures to fix the problem. As they failed to do so, they are now being referred to the European Court of Justice. Germany, the UK and Luxembourg approved the VW group diesels later found to have cheated the tests, but failed to properly investigate and levy penalties. The Commission is also investigating whether Italy properly scrutinised the suspiciously high emissions of some Fiat models it approved in the past. Most Dieselgate investigations exposed the Fiat models as the most polluting in Europe but, as T&E highlighted last year, the national authorities still refuse to act.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles and air quality manager at T&E, said: “This long-overdue announcement shows governments they cannot go on allowing citizens to be poisoned by toxic air. Meeting air pollution limits is a legal obligation. Now it’s time to get tough on the main cause of the breach: the manufacturers of the 40 million dirty diesel cars and vans still on Europe’s roads.”

T&E’s analysis indicates there are still 40 million grossly polluting diesel cars and vans – the main cause of toxic NO2 exceedances in urban areas – on the EU’s roads. These vehicles emit several times the legal levels of NOx, which has adverse respiratory effects including asthma in the short term and is linked to lung cancer in the long term.

Julia Poliscanova concluded: “The European Commission should replace member states’ piecemeal approach to retrofits with a mandatory EU-wide recall programme so that all drivers get their dirty diesels fixed. The upgrades must follow a harmonised EU procedure with emission reductions certified by independent bodies, not by the discredited car industry.”


Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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