German government sued by citizens over high air pollution levels 

The World Health Organization published new air quality guidelines in 2021 that significantly lowered the recommended thresholds. Although these thresholds aren’t legally binding, seven German citizens are suing the government for failing to make progress on air pollution. 

The group of claimants, who are from some of Germany’s most heavily polluted cities, is now demanding the German government take action to improve air quality. 

According to the statement, the group of claimants acknowledges that the government hasn’t broken any national laws. However, it argues that the regulations are based on outdated science. 

It continues to point out that citizens are breathing air that’s five to six times more polluted than the current World Health Organization recommendations. 

For the lawsuit, the group measures the levels of the toxic pollutants nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in their cities, which are four of Germany’s most polluted urban areas: Munich, Berlin, Dusseldorf, and Frankfurt. 

A claimant statement that was released when the lawsuit was announced reads: “Air pollution may not often be named the official cause of death, but it claims lives – and causes long-term diseases, including cancer, heart problems, shortness of breath, and strokes. 

I myself suffer from asthma. Politicians are doing too little to protect people – particularly those most exposed. There are many ways to reduce pollution, but what’s missing is the political will to implement them. To change that, I am now suing for my right to breathe clean and healthy air.”

They are being supported by the environmental law firm ClientEarth and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), a German environmental and consumer protection association.

The case has been filed at the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany and claims legal basis per the German constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EU is aware of the new air pollution limits and has made proposals to revise the Ambient Air Quality Directives by the third quarter of 2022.

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