Brussels air pollution case goes to EU court as judge warns the Air Quality plans of the Brussels government is inadequate.

In the air pollution case of 5 Brussels citizens and Client Earth against the Brussels government, the judge has found that the authority’s current plans to clean it up are inadequate, but requested further guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) before making a final decision.

While seeking clarification from the CJEU, the court stated expressly that the Brussels government’s current “Air-Climate-Energy Plan” does not meet requirements for air quality plans under the Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC.

According to the court, the current plan does not include “appropriate measures” to ensure that exceedances of air pollution limits are kept as short as possible. Moreover, the judge stated that measures that will take five years to be implemented can hardly be considered adequate to ensure compliance in the shortest time possible.

ClientEarth lawyer, Ugo Taddei said: “We are confident that the CJEU will uphold Brussels citizens’ right to clean air. Meanwhile, the government should listen to the clear warning from the Brussels court and take action immediately to adopt a real air quality plan that meets EU requirements. The longer they delay, the greater the harm to the health of everyone living and working in Brussels.

Brussels needs to take urgent action
The current “Air-Climate-Energy Plan” clearly fails to meet EU requirements for air quality plans. However, the judge is seeking clarification from the CJEU on how authorities should assess compliance with air quality limits. Only where limits are exceeded are the relevant authorities obliged to adopt an air quality plan.

The Brussels government has repeatedly acknowledged the exceedance of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits in several official documents, including in the current “Air-Climate-Energy Plan” and in the latest report to the EU Commission in September 2017.

The CJEU has also been asked to examine whether a national court can order a monitoring station to be installed in the most polluted streets. The response from the CJEU on this question will help the Brussels court to decide if additional monitoring stations should be placed in Brussels’ most polluted roads, including Rue de la Loi and Rue Belliard.

One of the claimants, Karin De Schepper said: “We are pleased to see that the judge is taking this matter very seriously and is seeking guidance from the CJEU. For my kids and all kids in Brussels, I hope this doesn’t stop the Brussels government and every single mayor in Brussels stepping up their ambition.

Lies Craeynest, another claimant added: “The letter from 100 doctors and scientists a month ago left no doubt about the seriousness of the health impact and the need to act urgently.

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100 doctors and scientists alert about air pollution in Brussels

General practitioners, specialists, teachers and health organizations urgently demand more ambition against air pollution. Invisible, air pollution leads to premature births, low birth weight, cognitive deficits, childhood asthma and cancer. In adults, air pollution causes severe cardiovascular disease and COPD.

It is especially the socially deprived who are exposed to the highest levels of pollution. The 100 doctors and scientists find it unacceptable to let the younger generation grow up in these conditions when the alarming risks are well known. Early exposure to air pollution puts them at risk for serious diseases that can significantly compromise the quality of their lives, their families, their livelihoods and their finances. Air pollution has a lasting negative impact on health.

The consequences of air pollution also weigh heavily on public finances. If Brussels applied the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO), the increase in life expectancy would result in a saving of an impressive amount of more than 758 million euros per year. A huge amount that we could invest a lot better to the benefit of all.

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100 dokters en wetenschappers trekken aan de alarmbel over de luchtvervuiling in Brussel

Huisartsen, specialisten, professoren en gezondheidsorganisaties eisen dringend meer ambitie tegen de luchtvervuiling. Ook al is ze onzichtbaar, luchtvervuiling leidt tot vroegtijdige geboorten, laag geboortegewicht, cognitieve achterstand, kinderastma en kanker. Bij volwassenen veroorzaakt luchtvervuiling ernstige hart- en vaatziekten en chronisch obstructief longlijden.

Vooral de meeste kwetsbare mensen hebben erg onder de luchtvervuiling te lijden. De 100 dokters en wetenschappers vinden het onaanvaardbaar dat een generatie jongeren opgroeien terwijl de verontrustende risico’s nagenoeg bekend zijn. Vroege blootstelling geeft mensen achterstand bij de start en maakt hen in het latere leven extra vatbaar voor ernstige ziekten die verreikende effecten hebben op de kwaliteit van hun leven, hun gezinnen, hun levensonderhoud en hun financiën. Luchtvervuiling heeft bijgevolg een blijvende negatieve impact op de gezondheid.

De gevolgen van de luchtvervuiling wegen ook zwaar op de openbare financiën. Als Brussel de richtsnoeren van de Wereldgezondheidsorganisatie (WHO) zou naleven zou de winst in levensverwachting zich jaarlijks vertalen in een duizelingwekkend bedrag van 758 miljoen euro. Geld dat we veel beter zouden kunnen investeren in het belang van iedereen.

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100 médecins et scientifiques alertent sur la pollution de l’air à Bruxelles

Les médecins généralistes, les spécialistes, les professeurs et les organismes de santé demandent d’urgence plus d’ambition contre la pollution de l’air. Invisible, la pollution de l’air entraîne des naissances prématurées, un faible poids à la naissance, des déficits cognitifs, l’asthme infantile et le cancer. Chez les adultes, la pollution de l’air provoque des maladies cardiovasculaires sévères et des bronchopathies chroniques obstructives .

Ce sont surtout les plus démunis qui sont exposés aux taux de pollution les plus élevés. Les 100 médecins et scientifiques trouvent inacceptable de laisser la jeune génération grandir dans ces conditions alors que les risques alarmants sont bien connus. Une exposition précoce à la pollution de l’air les met à risque de maladies graves qui peuvent compromettre significativement la qualité de leur vie, de leurs familles, de leurs moyens d’existence et leurs finances. La pollution de l’air a donc un impact négatif durable sur la santé.

Les conséquences de la pollution de l’air pèsent également lourdement sur les finances publiques. Si Bruxelles appliquait les normes de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS), le gain d’espérance de vie se traduirait par une économie d’un montant impressionnant de plus de 758 millions d’euro par an. Une énorme somme d’argent que nous pourrions investir beaucoup mieux.

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Court action for clean air in Brussels

ClientEarth, along with five Brussels citizens, are pursuing legal action against the Brussels
regional government for failure to deliver an adequate Air Quality Plan (AQP) and to adequately measure and monitor concentrations of pollutants in the city.
The levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Brussels have breached legal limits since 2010. The regional Plan “Air-Climat-Energie” was only adopted by the Brussels government in June 2016.

This is a programmatic document setting the general framework for actions on air quality,
climate change and energy issues. However, the plan is woefully inadequate as it fails to reduce illegal levels of air pollution “as soon as possible”, which is required by the law. It proposes the introduction of a low emissions zone (LEZ) from January 2018.This is a step in the right direction, but it is too little, too late. As of next year, only the oldest vehicles (Euro 0 and Euro 1) will be banned from circulating within the capital. Only 9% of cars in Brussels are Euro 0 and Euro 1, so this decision is unlikely to have any tangible effect on air quality.

ClientEarth is asking the court to oblige the Brussels authorities to develop and implement an appropriate air quality plan to tackle the dangerous level of air pollution in the region and bring it within legal limits.

Download the case briefing here.

Shocking levels of Brussels pollution revealed

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Independent air quality measurements carried out by environmental law organisation ClientEarth have revealed the shockingly high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on the streets of Brussels and alarming flaws in the official monitoring network.

Concentrations of the gas, which in Brussels comes mostly from diesel vehicles, were in places almost two and a half times the legal limit and almost double the highest official records published by Bruxelles Environnement.

ClientEarth measured NO2 levels at various points on four different streets of the capital: Rue Belliard, Rue de la Loi, Arts-Loi and Avenue des Arts. In all but one location – outside the parliament, well away from the road – there were illegal and harmful levels of pollution.

Outside the US Embassy, ClientEarth recorded levels just under 100 μg/m3 on average during the measurement campaign. The legal limit is an annual mean of 40 μg/m3. On Rue de la Loi concentrations were above 90 μg/m3. During the same period, the highest official records published by Bruxelles Environnement were just over 50 μg/m3 (Avenue de la Couronne).

ClientEarth, along with five Brussels residents, has taken legal action against the Brussels government for failing to deal with illegal levels of air pollution in the capital and failing to monitor it effectively.

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: These are simply shocking levels of air pollution. By hiding the real state of the air in the capital, the Brussels government is exposing all of us to unacceptable health risks.

Brussels citizens’ right to clean air has been denied for too long. The Brussels government has a legal and moral obligation to immediately correct the alarming flaws in its monitoring network. As it stands, they are not giving us an accurate picture of air quality in the city.

“The authorities must also adopt urgent and ambitious measures to bring the levels of air pollution within the legal limits in the shortest time possible.”

Karin De Schepper and Lies Craeynest, who live in Brussels and who are claimants in the legal case, said: “These results show that the situation is much more serious than we thought. We’re worried that children and other vulnerable groups are breathing toxic air on a daily basis, causing irreparable damage to their health.

“We expect our government to properly inform and protect its citizens. The Brussels Region has announced a first package of measures. We’re counting on the Region and municipalities to combine their efforts as soon as possible and step up ambition. These alarming results show once again that we need effective policies to make healthy mobility easy and attractive for all. Nobody stands to lose, if everyone’s health stands to gain.”

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14 maart 2017: Childproof presenteert Actieplan Milieu en Gezondheid voor Kinderen

Op 14 maart 2017 stelt de expertengroep Childproof zijn Actieplan Milieu en Gezondheid voor Kinderen. SchoneluchtBXL onderschrijft het plan van de gezondheidsspecialisten volledig.

Vandaag worden ongeboren kinderen blootgesteld aan giftige stoffen. Deze blootstelling gaat onophoudelijk door na de geboorte en belemmert hun genot van het hoogst haalbare niveau van geestelijke en lichamelijke gezondheid. Bij het overwegen van “kosten en baten” bij preventieve maatregelen mag de politiek het recht op gezondheid van kinderen niet vergeten of naar de achtergrond duwen.

De samenleving moet haar rol spelen om de blootstelling van kinderen aan gevaren voor het milieu te verminderen. Luchtkwaliteit is daar onmiskenbaar één van. Ouders, opvoeders in scholen en kinderopvang, gezondheidswerkers, wetenschappers en overheden, NGO’s en de private sector: zij moeten samenwerken om een beleid te ontwikkelen dat kinderen voor bekende en potentiële milieugevaren beschermt. Een beleid dat gericht is op preventie en sensibilisering, maar ook op een strenge regelgeving.

Wat is Childproof ?
De expertengroep Childproof is een interdisciplinair netwerk van Belgische en Nederlandse middenveldorganisaties en wetenschappers dat zich inzet voor het verbeteren van de leefomgeving van kinderen, en gespecialiseerd is in milieu en gezondheid.

Start mee de transitie en kom naar de conferentie!

Childproof nodigt u graag uit voor de presentatie van hun alternatief plan CEHAP. Deelname is gratis.
Datum: dinsdag 14 maart, van 9 tot 13.30 uur.
Plaats: VLEVA, Kortenberglaan 71 – 1000 Brussel
Inschrijven: 1 maart bij (ULB).

Info avond 13 maart: meten is weten

SMARTER LABS présente une soirée de Citizens Science

La pollution de l’air à Bruxelles est un enjeu majeur… mais mal connu! Face à une qualité de l’air toujours plus nocive pour la santé des Bruxellois et à la timidité des décideurs politiques en charge d’y répondre, plusieurs groupes citoyens se sont mobilisés: les participants du projet expAIR (Bral-IBGE), le mouvement Clean Air Brussels, Bruxsel’air, EUCG, Gezinsbond, Fietsersbond,…

Dans ce contexte, le mouvement urbain BRAL et le Centre pour la Recherche Urbaine de la VUB (Cosmopolis) proposent une rencontre entre l’université et les citoyens.

Date: le 13 mars 2017 à partir de 17h30
Adresse: Elzenhof, avenue de la Couronne, 1050 Ixelles

VIDEO Brussels citizens take the street to demand clean air

On 18 February 2017, our colleagues of citizen group BruxselAIR organised a wide-scale event to protest against air pollution in the Belgian capital. About 400 participants placed air pollution masks on more than a hundred iconic statues in Brussels. They later gathered by the statue of Godefroy de Bouillon on the Place Royal to protest against the inability of Belgian decision makers to adequately tackle this crucial issue.

It is time to stop hiding behind the institutional complexity of our country.
It is time to stop playing with public health.
It is time to act.

Background: Belgium is one of the most polluted countries in Europe. Air pollution has been linked to shorter life expectancy, lung and heart conditions, breast cancer and diabetes. The European Environmental Agency estimates that more than 12,000 Belgian citizens die prematurely each year in Belgium from air pollution. According to the EU Commission, health costs due to air pollution amount to over €8 billion every year.



Brussels government skirts truth on air pollution with legal technicality

The Brussels regional government has today dodged having to immediately reveal the true state of the city’s toxic air to its residents, using a legal technicality to avoid properly monitoring air pollution at hotspots.

In September 2016 ClientEarth and a group of Brussels citizens took the Brussels authorities to court over several breaches of air quality laws. This included a request for an urgent order to improve the monitoring network to provide realistic information on pollution levels in the areas where people were most exposed to them. The Brussels court of first instance today issued a preliminary ruling, saying that a decision on monitoring stations would have to wait until the entire case is concluded.

This means it could be another year before the people of Brussels will be informed of the level of exposure to harmful pollutants at the worse spots in Brussels.

What levels of air pollution are we looking at?
There is another smog alert in Brussels today, showing just how serious the situation is in the city without including the full facts.

ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei, said: “We understand the judge’s decision and are confident that the final decision will force the authorities to comply with their monitoring obligations. But we are appalled by the callous actions of the Brussels regional government. When pollution monitors were showing dangerous levels of air pollution, they simply switched them off and have now used legal technicalities to delay the point when they will be forced by the court to meet their legal and moral obligations. This shows a disregard for the health of all of us who live and work in Brussels.

“Everybody has the right to know if they are breathing in toxic air but the Brussels government has fought to block this in the courts while publicly claiming they are doing everything they are obliged to do to monitor air pollution.

“Brussels citizens deserve more than deceptive reassurances. That is why we’ve decided to measure the air pollution ourselves. We will be carrying out measurements in the next few weeks and be making the results available to people. We will do what the regional government refuses to do.”

Concern for those who live and work in Brussels
Karin and Lies, two of the citizens who were concerned by the effect air pollution was having on the health of their families and others and took the legal action along with ClientEarth, said:

“We don’t understand why the Brussels government would not measure pollution where citizens are most exposed and try to hide some of the worst results, instead of using them as a clear sign on the wall that Brussels citizens, commuters and tourists need to be better protected from this silent killer.

Action on air pollution is urgent, and imminently possible. Nobody stands to lose, if everyone’s health stands to gain.”

There are an estimated 600 premature deaths every year in Brussels as a result of air pollution. In a report released this month, the European Commission said the health cost to the whole country of air pollution was upwards of €8 billion.

The legal case is also challenging the regional government’s Plan air climat énergie as it is not strong enough to tackle the illegal levels of air pollution in Brussels. The next stage of the legal case will be heard on November 16.

Brussels authorities attempt to defend inaction on air quality in court

ClientEarth has defended the right of Brussels residents to information about the quality of the air they breathe.

The case was launched in September, with five members of the Belgian public, to contest illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the Belgian capital, and inadequate monitoring that fails tocomply with EU law.

Following a court hearing today, ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said: “The Brussels government’s hypocrisy is a disgrace. Publicly, it claims to be widening access to information through its new website “Qualité de l’air”. Yet today it fought against our call to provide reliable information on the air pollution levels of Brussels’ dirtiest streets.

“We’re confident the court’s decision will reflect the right of all Brussels residents to accurate information about the quality of the air they breathe every day.”

Brussels residents Karin de Schepper and Lies Craeynest, who lodged the complaint with three others on 21 September 2016, said in a statement: “We’re pleased with the first steps the regional government has taken in the fight against air pollution, but these must be followed by further action to ensure clean air for the people of Brussels. These efforts must be made at all levels: not only the regional government but also countywide.

“Our legal action is officially against the Brussels authorities but all political actors, regardless of the level of government at which they sit, must work together to fight air pollution.”

The aim of the case is to compel the Brussels government to put in place a plan fit to combat air pollution – complete with a timetable and robust reporting – in line with EU law.

Ugo added: “Our action, to make sure people who live and work in Brussels, know about the air they’re breathing is just the beginning. It doesn’t change the fact that pollution levels in Brussels remain illegal. Those in charge need to come up with a plan to reduce them, as quickly as possible.

“We will be at a tribunal on 16 November to push the authorities to do this. Meanwhile, we’re awaiting the conclusions from today’s hearing on air quality monitoring.”

The case is part of a wave of legal action on clean air across Europe, including cases in the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The outcome of the tribunal on monitoring is expected on 10 February.

In the Press 2016-2015

[heading icon=”” type=”standard” size=”h2″ extra=””]About air pollution and clean air in Brussels[/heading]