Brussels, 19 May 2011
Environment – Commission takes France to court over failure to comply with EU air quality rules
The European Commission is taking France to court for failing to comply with EU air quality limit values for airborne particles known as PM10. France has so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of these particles in several zones across the country. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has therefore decided to take France to the EU Court of Justice.
Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe requires Member States to limit the exposure of citizens to the tiny particles known as PM10. The legislation sets limit values for exposure covering both an annual concentration value (40 μg/m3), and a daily concentration value (50 μg/m3) that must not be exceeded more than 35 times in a calendar year.
Since the legislation entered into force in 2005, the limit values for PM10 have not been respected in 16 air quality zones across France. The regions concerned are: Marseille, Toulon, Avignon, Paris and Valenciennes, Dunkirk, Lille, the Nord Pas-de-Calais Territory, Grenoble, Montbéliard/Belfort, Lyon, the rest of the Rhône-Alpes Region, the urbanised coastal area of Alpes-Maritimes, Bordeaux, Réunion and Strasbourg. France has applied for time extensions for meeting the targets, but in the Commission's view, only Strasbourg has met the conditions for an exemption.
Despite an earlier reasoned opinion asking France to act (see IP/10/833), air quality standards are still exceeded in the 15 remaining air quality zones. Therefore, the Commission has decided to take France to the EU Court of Justice.
Airborne particles (PM10) are mainly present in pollutant emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating. They can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death.
The PM10 limit values were to be met by 2005, although Member States may ask the Commission to extend the time for meeting the standards until June 2011. Such exemptions are subject to a number of conditions. Member States must present an air quality plan setting out the relevant abatement actions during the extension period and demonstrate that they have taken all the necessary steps to achieve compliance by the extended deadline.
The implementation EU legislation is a priority for the Commission, especially since unnecessary delays in reducing harmful pollutants can mean continued damage to human health.
Lists of zones in exceedance by Member State:
Time extension website:
For current information on infringements in general:
See also MEMO/11/312