02:55 GMT +319 September 2019
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    NGO: Air Pollution Lawsuit Against EU States May Change Environment Policies

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Non-governmental organizations believe that Brussels' decision to take some EU countries to court over air pollution may help overhaul national policies and put emphasis on health and environment.

    France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were taken to court over the exceeding presence of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, while Hungary, Italy, and Romania were found to have high levels of particulate matter in their air.

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    The lawsuit may be able to urge the national governments reconsider their policy and reorient it toward health concerns, Director for Strategy and Campaign at Brussels-based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) Anne Stauffer told Sputnik.

    "We hope that Thursday decision is a wake-up call for national policy-makers to now prioritize more transformative measures, which will also tackle climate change and boost our health overall. This includes promoting active transportation, so walking and cycling in our cities," Stauffer said.

    HEAL campaign head noted that the EU countries failing to ensure the proper air quality were lacking the political will to "truly tackle air quality and improve our health."

    "In several instances in the past years, EU member states have actually tried to be exempt from stricter pollution cuts, for example when it comes to industrial emissions or the requirement to reduce air emissions overall," Stauffer said.

    Hans-Josef Fell, the president of the Berlin-based environmental non-profit Energy Watch Group, stressed that the European Commission's decision to file a complaint was "overdue."

    "It will help to strengthen the until now failing policy against air pollution," Fell said.

    According to Fell, the court-mandated fines will be helpful in forcing governments to ensure the air quality.

    "These penalties will enforce political measurements for clean air, like quotes for E[lectro]-mobility," the Energy Watch group head said.

    Germany and other EU states should introduce quotes for electric and hydrogen mobility for cars, trains, boats and aircraft, the Energy Watch Group leader argued. The national governments should also support the switch to renewable technologies for heating systems and energy production.

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    On Thursday, the European Commission it was referring France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom to the EU Court of Justice over their failure to maintain the agreed level of air quality and to make air quality lapses as short as possible. In addition, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom were given formal notice over their non-compliance with EU vehicle type-approval rules.

    Court-issued punishment has helped improve the quality of air in Bulgaria. EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella confirmed in March that there was an improvement after the European Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that the country needed to step up its efforts.

    In February, the court ruled that Poland had breached air pollution rules, but it is too early to say if the ruling has produced any positive results yet.

    Air pollution has been linked to various diseases and increased death rates. According to the World Health Organization, deaths from stroke or lung cancer may be related to air pollution.

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