A Major Win for Air Quality in Prague
Prague Municipal Court ruled today in favour better protection of human health from air pollution in the capital of the Czech Republic. The Court revoked most of Prague's Air Quality Management Plan, issued in 2016 by the Czech Ministry of Environment. The reasoning of the ruling has not been made public yet, but the court stated during the hearing that the main defect of the Plan was its low efficiency and thus low likelihood that the Plan would serve its purpose - swift achievement of binding air quality standards A similar ruling was issued in December 2017 with respect to Ostrava and two more similar cases are still pending (Brno, Usti region).
The legal action was aided by the Center for Environment and Health, environmental law organization ClientEarth and public interest law group Frank Bold.
"We are convinced that the plan does not fulfill all requirements foreseen by the Air Quality Directive. What is missing is the timeframe for implementation of the proposed measures, which would assure that the plan meets its goals in a given time. The plan should also contain means to evaluate the measures and quantify their contribution to the air quality improvement," says Alžbeta Rosinová, lawyer at Frank Bold. "All this was requested in strategic environmental assessment (SEA), but the request went unheard," she adds.
The partial annulment of the Plan will not lead to negative outcomes for the city's environment, since the proposed measured can be carried out without the Plan too. Meanwhile the Ministry will be drafting a new one.
"The court ruling is a victory for citizens of Prague. We need a Plan that is more than just a list of ideas for better air quality," says Olga Richterová from VLASTA association, one of the plaintiffs.
ClientEarth lawyer Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan notices the Czech government has failed to tackle the air pollution crisis in the country. “But as we can see here, law has the power to fix it and force the authorities to produce the air quality plan that will bring back the air pollution within legal limits as soon as possible,” she says.
“This is another victory of ClientEarth and its partners in Europe for clean air and citizens’ rights to breathe it and live in a healthier environment - this time in the capital of the Czech Republic,” adds Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan.
Poor air quality is a serious health problem in Prague. Traffic is the main source of air pollution, especially high levels of PM10, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, benzo(a)pyren and ozone.
The European Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, as well as Czech Air Quality Act, require that the Air Quality Management Plans reassure the achievement of the legal air pollution limits “in the shortest time possible”. The quashed Air Quality Management Plan for Prague did not provide effective measures to fulfil this requirement. The Ministry of the Environment thus did not meet its obligations set by the directive and the law. Therefore the Prague Municipal Court quashed the plan and the Ministry will now have to start the preparation of a new Air Quality Management Plan for the city.
Frank Bold has provided legal expertise for three similar lawsuits where local citizens and NGOs challenged Air Quality Management Plans in other highly polluted regions – Brno and Ostrava agglomerations and Ústí region – for analogous reasons. Two of the cases are currently pending before the courts.
About Frank Bold:
Frank Bold is an international team of lawyers who participate in resolving current problems of the society in the fields of corporate accountability, system state corruption or degradation of the environment.
Contact: Ms. Bára Buchtova, PR at Frank Bold, tel. +420 604 834 922, firstname.lastname@example.org (English, Czech)
ClientEarth is a non-profit environmental law organisation based in London, with offices in Brussels, Warsaw, New York and Beijing. The organisation takes part in administrative and court actions relating to environmental issues, using law, science and policy to tackle key environmental challenges.
Contact: Michal Zablocki, Communications and Campaign Officer, ClientEarth, tel. +48 22 307 7150, e-mail: email@example.com (English, Czech, Polish)