The government of Belgium has been warned that it may face legal proceedings from the European Commission if it fails to bring forward new measures to address air pollution.
The Commission today (8 November) revealed that it has issued a letter of formal notice to the Belgian government over its failure to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution – which is typically associated with road transport emissions.
According to the Commission, levels of NO2 in exceedance of the 40 µg/m3 average yearly legal limit have been recorded at monitoring sites in Brussels and Antwerp since 2010.
The Commission has decided that current measures to address the exceedances, which has included low emission zones, have not been sufficient to solve the problem, and further action may be required.
Questions have also been raised over the monitoring of air pollutants in the country – including the location of monitoring sites used to measure progress towards air quality limits.
In a statement issued today, the Commission said: “Belgium has persistently failed to meet binding limit values for NO2, a pollutant gas, in the Brussels region since they came into force in 2010. The Antwerp agglomeration is also exceeding permitted values, despite a later 2015 deadline for entering into force.
“Although some measures, such as low emission zones, are in place to combat air pollution, the Commission is concerned that the current measures are not sufficient to achieve compliance as soon as possible.
“The Commission is also questioning the way air quality is monitored in Belgium, including the location of measuring points for NO2 in Brussels. The Commission has, therefore, decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Belgium. Belgium has two months to reply; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.”
Any potential legal action would come in addition to legal proceedings which have been taken against member states including the UK, France and Germany – which have also failed to meet NO2 air pollution limits.
Europe’s Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella announced that the three member states had been referred to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible.
Hungary, Italy, and Romania were also referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter (PM10).
The limits set out under EU legislation on ambient air quality (Directive 2008/50/EC) had to be met in 2010 and 2005 respectively.
Action against the Czech Republic and Spain was dropped following meetings with ministers.
The Commission has also today expressed concern at the ‘slow pace’ of the implementation of measures by Bulgaria to fully implement a ruling delivered by the Court of Justice in April 2017 over breaches of the PM10 – claiming that the country has ‘not yet adopted all of the measures required to remedy the situation’.
The country, along with Czech Republic, has also been rapped for failig to bring its Air Quality legislation into line with the EU’s ambient air quality directive. Both countries have been set a two-month deadline before further action may be considered.