Event Timeline

Help Brussels breathe

June 2019

The European Court of Justice backs 5 Brussels citizens of CleanAirBxl and ClientEarth in our fight for clean air in Brussels. The EU top Court rules that citizens have the right to go to court to challenge how and where authorities are monitoring pollution. National courts are not only competent to check the location of air quality measurement points but also to take all necessary measures against the national authority concerned to ensure air pollution monitoring stations are at the right spots in accordance with EU air quality law. Finally, authorities cannot hide high levels of air pollution in some areas by using a city-wide average in their calculations, because people's health is at risk wherever the limit values are exceeded.
The case will now return to the Court of First instance in Brussels for a final judgment.

February 2019

The Brussels Court had asked the European Court of Justice to clarify EU air pollution law. In advance of this ruling, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice states that:

  • national courts must check whether air quality measurement points are in the right location
  • air pollution limits must be assessed at monitoring stations where people’s exposure to pollution is the greatest, not with an average across an area.

November 2018

The European Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Belgium for its continued failure to address illegal levels of air pollution. The letter of formal notice expressly mentions that the Commission is concerned that the current measures to improve air quality are not good enough and questions the way air quality is monitored in Brussels. Belgium has two months to provide an explanation for its lack of action.

September 2018

The European Court of Auditors published an air pollution report that shows that Brussels’ air quality plan for reducing nitrogen dioxide by restricting traffic was “unreliable” and highlighted the lack of air quality monitoring stations in high traffic zones compared to other cities.
 End of September: Air quality data published by the Belgian government shows that for the second consecutive year, air pollution has worsened in Brussels. The statistics must be submitted annually to the European Commission by each Member State. More information available on the ClientEarth website here and here.   

May 2018

Brussels Environment Minister, Céline Fremault, announced the city will ban all diesel vehicles by 2030. She also suggested banning all internal combustion engine vehicles by the same date. While this is a welcome development, a ban in 2030 will do nothing to solve the air pollution issues that are harming the health of the Brussels citizens today.
Céline Fremault also announced in June 2018 that the Brussels government will be investigating suitable locations for new monitoring stations in the capital. The Environment Minister also stated that the two monitoring stations located at the European Parliament who’s data were previously not recorded, would now become publicly accessible.

February 2018

Following multiple days of exceedingly high concentrations of PM2.5, the Brussels government introduced “emergency” measures that would come into effect if concentrations of PM2.5 remained between  51-70 μg/m3 for two consecutive days. These measures include free public transport, driving restricted to 50km/h on roads limited to 70 and  90 km/h (120km/h roads would be limited to90km/h) and prohibiting the use of wood burning stoves.

15 December 2017

The judge requests further guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) before making a final decision.
The judge is seeking clarification from the CJEU (Case C-723/17) on how authorities should assess compliance with air quality limits. Only where limits are exceeded, are the relevant authorities obliged to adopt an air quality plan. The judge has already clarified that, should an air quality plan be required in Brussels, the current “Air-Climate-Energy Plan” would not meet the requirements under the EU Air Quality Directive.
The CJEU has also been asked to examine whether a national court can order the installation of monitoring stations in highly polluted streets. The response from the CJEU on this question will help the Brussels court to decide if additional monitoring stations should be placed in Brussels’ most polluted roads, including Rue de la Loi and Rue Belliard. The CJEU ruling will also set a precedent binding all across the EU on the right of individuals and NGOs to hold authorities accountable in relation to their air quality monitoring obligations.
The hearing before the CJEU has been set for 10 January 2019 in Luxembourg.
Since the five individuals and ClientEarth started their legal action in September 2016, the Brussels government has introduced a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) from January 2018. However, the initial LEZ only applies to Euro 1 diesel cars and vans – those built prior to 1992 – with a gradual roll-out to Euro 5 vehicles only by 2025. Petrol vehicles will not be included in the scope of the scheme until 2019, with a gradual limit introduced up to Euro 2 petrol vehicles (manufactured before 1997) coming into force in 2025.

16 November 2017

 Final hearing before the judge in ClientEarth’s case against the Brussels regional government. The judge announces that a decision would be made no later than 15 December 2017.

10 February 2017

Outcome of January tribunal. The Brussels government avoids having to immediately monitor air pollution at hotspots by using a technicality. The court of first instance issues a ruling, reserving the decision on monitoring stations until the entire case is concluded.

13 January 2017

Court hearing on the illegal absence of key air quality monitoring stations in Brussels. As part of the complaint lodged in September, ClientEarth identified that monitoring stations at Arts-Loi and Rue Belliard had been turned off since 2008 and 2014, respectively.

Note: Since the hearing, the monitoring station at Arts-Loi has been switched back on. However, Brussels authorities refuse to use the results from this station despite it consistently reporting the highest levels of NO2.

21 September 2016

ClientEarth and five citizens launch a clean air legal challenge against the Brussels regional government. The case focuses on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a harmful gas, which in towns and cities comes mostly from diesel vehicles. The legal challenge calls for the authorities to produce an effective plan to clean up the city’s air as well as correctly monitor air pollution in the city