Air pollution has been blamed for an estimated 400,000 premature deaths across the EU every year. According to a report by the WHO in 2016, thirty three of Europe’s top fifty most polluted cities are in Poland. The country is a major coal burning nation and the European Environmental Agency has recently blamed this for around 50,000 premature deaths every year. The total population of Poland is just over 38 million.
As a result of these shocking figures, the European Court of Justice has announced that it will impose fines on Poland unless they comply with EU pollution laws “without delay”. The court says that as Poland has consistently failed to protect the environment they have broken the law and need to take immediate action to improve air quality. The EU rules on maximum air pollution levels have been in place since 2010, and Poland have persistently been in breach of the levels.
Between 2007 and 2015 the daily limit for fine air particles were exceeded in 35 zones and the annual limit in nine zones. “The Court of Justice finds that Poland has infringed EU law on ambient air quality. In today’s judgment, the court notes first of all that the fact of exceeding the limit values for PM10 concentrations in the ambient air is sufficient in itself to establish a failure to fulfil obligations,” said a statement from the court.
The court also noted that it’s been difficult to bring down pollution in some areas of Poland because of “socio-economic and financial challenge of the major technical investments to be carried out”. The Polish government added that they are trying to combat air pollution, but are struggling to meet the timelines set out by the European Union. “Fighting smog is one of the government’s priorities. But we will not be able to do it within a year,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Piotr Wozny, a deputy minister responsible for air quality also commented that “We would like to agree with the European Commission the conditions of a special operational program for clean air.” He also blamed formed governments for the ongoing pollution problem and said that they planned to introduce a pilot programme to help some of Poland’s most polluted towns. These programmes include offering subsidies which will enable poorer households to become more eco friendly.
If the European Commission finds that steps haven’t been taken to bring Poland closer to the legal levels the case will be referred back to the court which could result in fines being imposed. The court has also urged other European nations to improve air quality, as several countries including France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Romania are all in breach of the quality standard that have been set out.
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