RIGHT TO CLEAN AIR
With the Right to Clean Air project, we are endeavouring to significantly improve air quality in Europe. Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. (German Environmental Aid Association) and the Frank Bold Society (FBS) jointly promote air pollution control measures in different source areas and support legal action at European and national level.
Air pollution is still one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite Europe-wide policies and the judicially confirmed "right to clean air", limit values for air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or particulate matter (PM10) are regularly exceeded in many cities and metropolitan areas. This is damaging to the health of citizens and detrimental to our environment and the climate. According to studies by the European Environment Agency (EEA), more than 430,000 people died prematurely from the consequences of particulate matter air pollution throughout Europe in 2012. The high NO2 emission levels are responsible for approximately 68,000 premature deaths. Poor air quality increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases including cancer. These damages to health are responsible for economic costs of between 330 and 940 billion euros, which is the equivalent of 3 to 9% of GDP in the EU. Up to 95% of the residents of European cities are exposed to pollutant concentrations that significantly harm their health. The main sources are industry, transport and households.
The European Commission has already initiated numerous infringement proceedings due to the continued exceedance of air quality limit values. 16 Member States have already received letters of formal notice due to the high levels of particulate matter pollution alone. The Commission has brought cases against two Member States - Bulgaria and Poland - before the European Court of Justice. Infringement proceedings for non-compliance with the NO2 limit values are currently underway against twelve Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom). Because such procedures take a long time, legal activities at national level, initiated by environmental and consumer protection associations and the citizens concerned, are urgently needed in order to ensure compliance with the air quality limit values as quickly as possible.
This project provides environmental and consumer protection organisations in Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, France, Italy and Slovakia with information on participation processes, e.g. participation in the development of air quality maintenance plans. In addition to this, access to justice as a fundamental right within the EU and the priority principle in the Commission's Work Programme are being improved. This also reinforces the competent administrations in the implementation of effective measures aimed at reducing emissions. A broad network of NGOs and lawyers as well as local and regional authorities from various Member States is being established. Best practice measures regarding pollution abatement in the areas of transport and industry are being evaluated and disseminated. The project activities also reinforce the general public's awareness of EU legislation and the positive impacts on the environment and health. The Right to Clean Air project is funded within the context of the European Commission's LIFE Programme.