State does not have to come up with new clean air measures, court rules

Traffic is a major source of inner city pollution. Photo:

The Dutch state does not have to take new measures to ensure Dutch air quality does not exceed EU pollution limits, appeal court judges ruled on Tuesday.

However, the state is responsible for ensuring the limits are not exceeded, the court said in its ruling.

In a fast-track hearing in September, judges gave the Dutch state two weeks to come up with a plan to drastically improve air quality and said ministers must publish a list of all the places in the Netherlands where pollution limits are being broken or may be broken in the future.

That same court found in favour of the state in December in parallel legal proceedings outside the fast track procedure. Tuesday’s ruling is an appeal against the September fast-track court decision.

Milieudefensie, which brought the case, claims tens of thousands of people die prematurely in the Netherlands every year because of air pollution.

In January, the Dutch health council called on the government to bring in much tougher rules on air quality and to follow the guidelines set down by the World Health Organisation rather than the EU.

It claims that while pollution levels are within EU limits in most of the country, people are still being made ill by exposure to fine dust particulates, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

These pollutants can cause or worsen lung, heart and artery problems and are responsible for some 12,000 premature deaths a year, the council said.

The government is due to present its plans for improving air quality at the end of this year.

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