EU takes France to court for second time over air pollution

Kate Abnett
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The Eiffel Tower is surrounded by a small-particle haze which hangs above the skyline in Paris
FILE PHOTO: The Eiffel Tower is surrounded by a small-particle haze which hangs above the skyline in Paris

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will take France to the EU Court of Justice for flouting limits on air pollution for more than a decade, the EU executive said on Friday.

Air pollution contributes to more than 400,000 premature deaths in Europe each year, but despite EU laws requiring countries to limit pollution, most of the bloc's 27 members are set to miss targets this year to tackle dirty air.

France will face legal action for breaching EU limits on particulate matter pollution in Paris for 12 years, and in Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean, for 14 years, the Commission said.

The EU's top court already ruled in 2019 that France had breached limits on nitrogen dioxide pollution in 12 regions.

Other countries, including Germany, Italy, Hungary and Romania have also previously faced legal action from the EU Commission over their failure to respect air quality rules.

Particulate matter is churned out in industry and vehicle emissions, as well as some agriculture. The pollutant has been regulated by legally-binding EU limits since 2005.

The Commission said data from France confirmed a "systematic failure" to comply with the rules.

The French government was also warned by the country's highest administrative court in July, that it would be fined 10 million euros every six months if it does not reduce air pollution in line with the law.

Prolonged exposure to pollutants can cause diabetes, lung disease and cancer, and early evidence suggests air pollution may be linked to higher death rates among COVID-19 patients.

Pollution levels across Europe plummeted earlier this year during lockdowns to control the COVID-19 pandemic. But any dip this year is expected to be temporary, unless countries and cities put in place lasting measures to limit pollution from traffic and factories.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)