France loses diesel pollution fight in EU court

(EurActiv, 25 Oct 2019) The EU’s top court ruled on Thursday (24 October) that France has persistently exceeded the threshold limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a polluting gas from diesel motors that causes major health problems.

France “systematically and persistently exceeded the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide since Jan. 1, 2010,” the court said in a statement.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, referred the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May 2018 after almost a decade of warnings that went unaddressed.

France is the first of several member states, including Germany and Britain, that the commission has sued in court after it stepped up its anti-pollution fight in the wake of the so-called “Dieselgate” scandal that erupted in 2015.

The motors caught up in the scandal – in which automakers installed special emission-cheating devices into their car engines – are the main emitters of nitrogen oxides that the European Environment Agency says are responsible for 68,000 premature deaths per year in the EU.

Nitrogen dioxide is toxic and can cause significant respiratory problems as one of the main constituents of traffic-jam smog.

Under EU rules, member countries are required to keep the gas to under 40 micrograms per cubic metre – but that level is often exceeded in many traffic-clogged European cities.

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EurActiv, 25 Oct 2019: France loses diesel pollution fight in EU court