The European Environmental Bureau has criticised secrecy in EU government air pollution plans, and described many as ‘completely inadequate’ for reaching climate change targets.
Following a meeting in January, during which ministers from nine EU member states were summoned to Brussels to explain their countries’ insufficient efforts to combat climate change, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) partnered with environmental and air quality organisations across Europe to request information on government air pollution plans from these states.
The countries the EEB requested information from were:
- The Czech Republic;
- Spain; and
- The UK.
These states have frequently breached legal limits for both nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, both of which are of particular concern in ensuring safe air for European citizens. Additionally, Bulgaria and Poland have already been found guilty in earlier cases.
How did the member states respond to the request?
The EEB reports that, following its requests for information, the governments of Italy and Slovakia released their plans, while proposals made by France and Germany were already available in the public domain.
On the other hand, the UK, Spain, Romania and the Czech Republic refused to share their air pollution plans, while the government of Hungary did not respond to the EEB’s request.
European Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella has announced that a number of EU governments would be recommended to the European Court of Justice for breaching the legal limits for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, but has not confirmed which countries will be targeted.
What has the EEB said about the matter?
EBB policy officer for air quality, Margherita Tolotto, insisted that more transparency and clarity are needed, both in terms of government proposals, and also in terms of which countries will be selected to face legal action, and why.
She said: “Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air and there is a huge public interest in the steps being proposed to tackle Europe’s air pollution crisis… People all over Europe have a right to know what measures their governments are proposing to improve the quality of the air they breathe.”
Tolotto suggested that those countries that refused to reveal their proposals for tackling air pollution did so because they know that these plans are insufficient. She concluded: “It’s shocking that such information is being kept secret, but it’s perhaps not surprising considering that the actions promised so far are mostly too little too late. EU leaders need to understand that urgent and significant action is required to improve our air.”