Ignorance? Is a bliss they say. Our statistics show that not revealing our plans of not doing anything about air pollution will prevent as many heart attacks as actually doing something about air pollution. Do you follow? Photo: ©Shutterstock – Sergio Delle Vedove

Secrecy over plans to tackle dirty air

Proposals from a handful of national governments to stave off legal action over breaches of air pollution limits are inadequate, while four out of nine countries facing referral to Europe’s highest court have refused to reveal their plans.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and other campaign groups made freedom of information requests to the governments of Italy, Spain, the UK, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to reveal the plans they submitted to the European Commission in a bid to avert a court case and potentially severe fines.

While some governments shared their proposals, others want to keep their plans secret to avoid public scrutiny, the EEB concluded. “It’s now essential that the public know why further legal action will or won’t be taken,” said EEB policy officer Margherita Tolotto.

The UK, Spanish, Czech and Romanian governments all refused to share information, as did the European Commission itself. Hungary did not respond to the freedom of information request.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London cited a “strong public interest in withholding the information because its disclosure would undermine the UK Government’s position in discussions with the European Commission”. Romania dismissed the request saying the request information comprised “working documents for ... internal use”.

However, the Italian and Slovak governments did release their proposals and the French and German measures were already in the public domain.

Legally binding air pollution limits are currently being broken in 130 cities in 23 of the 28 member states, and air quality data shows that the nine countries now facing legal action are among the worst offenders.

Sources: Ends Europe Daily and EEB, 28 March 2018


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