EU Citizens Might Sue their Governments for Health-Damaging Air, Says Top Court Adviser
According to a recent statement by an adviser to Europe's top court, citizens in European Union countries may be allowed to sue their governments for financial compensation if illegal levels of air pollution harm their health.
The adviser's judgement comes after a slew of recent rulings by the EU's Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which found about ten EU countries guilty of illegal air pollution, including France, Poland, Italy, and Romania.
"An infringement of the limit values for the protection of air quality under EU law may give rise to an entitlement to compensation from the State," According to the court statement.
According to Advocate General Juliane Kokott, poor people in highly contaminated locations are particularly vulnerable and require legal protection. She said individuals seeking compensation would have to show that air pollution was the direct cause of their health problems.
Irmina Kotiuk, a lawyer at environmental law firm ClientEarth, said:
"This legal confirmation that there are routes to hold those in power to account is a breakthrough in the fight for clean and healthy air."
Although EU court opinions are not legally obligatory, the court usually agrees with them in the months to come.
The opinion came in response to a lawsuit filed by a Paris resident seeking 21 million euros in damages from the French government, claiming that air pollution had harmed his health and that the government had failed to assure compliance with EU regulations.
A Versailles court hearing the Paris case requested clarification from the EU court on whether people can seek such compensation.
Between 2010 and 2020, Paris exceeded the EU's allowable nitrogen dioxide pollution limits.
The EU will propose an overhaul of its pollution regulations this year to better match them with World Health Organization rules to minimise premature deaths linked to unclean air.