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Activists Take Bucharest City Hall to Court for Poor Air Quality

Centre for Sustainable Policies “Ecopolis” with the support of 2Celsius and backed by the international legal NGO ClientEarth has started a legal challenge against the Bucharest Administration on the grounds of its inability to provide clean air for the citizens of the Romanian Capital.

According to the legislation in force, the City Hall is responsible for preparing and adopting air quality plans for the capital region. Ecopolis is suing a series of provisions of the Integrated Air Quality Plan (PICA), prepared by the Bucharest Municipality for the purpose of combating air pollution.

The lawsuit concerns PICA in its content, and not just formal requirements. An in-depth analysis, conducted by Ecopolis, showed that almost all the measures proposed in the PICA do not comply with the legal requirements to be quantifiable and effective in solving specific problems. They are so elusive that it is impossible to assess their possible impact. Consequently, the content of the Plan does not reach its objectives, and the City Hall must improve the PICA in order to meet the legal requirements provided in Law no. 104/2011 on ambient air quality – transposing Directive 2008/50 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.

The annexes to the Directive set the maximum levels of certain pollutants. The limits for PM10 and NO2 entered into force in 2005 and 2010, respectively, but were ever since consistently exceeded in Romania. Despite this, the Romanian government and local authorities have failed to take adequate measures to protect the health of their citizens. The excesses are recorded on particles (PM10 and PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are harmful to human health.

In this regard, the European Commission has initiated an infringement action against Romania.

The most serious long-term air pollution is caused by suspended dust particles, PM10. Most PM10 emissions are recorded in the Bucharest region – one of the most polluted areas in the European Union.

Oana Neneciu, director at Ecopolis, said:

“The Romanian state has the obligation to protect its citizens. This obligation was violated by the City Hall of Bucharest, and the inhabitants suffer the consequences caused by the poor quality of the air we breathe. For the correct and independent information regarding the level of air pollution in Bucharest, Ecopolis has created the platform, and for the City Hall’s accountability we consider the court action necessary.”

Raul Cazan, president of 2Celsius, said:

“High pollution in Bucharest with both particulate matter and NOx is a decade long drama. Green groups advocated ceaselessly for better air quality, established alternative systems of air meters in initiatives of citizen science, and protested to no avail. Therefore, starting a legal challenge in the judiciary came naturally as a final action against series of irresponsible mandates in Bucharest’s local government.”

ClientEarth lawyer Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan said:

“There are no derogations to EU Ambient Air Quality Directive. Romania, being a member of the European Union, is obliged to keep the air pollution under the limits set by the European law. But the Integrated Air Quality Plan (PICA) for Bucharest is inadequate and is not leading to any improvement. Definitely needs to be amended.”

At present, air pollution is an emergency for public health. It is responsible for over 27,000 premature deaths in Romania every year and for chronic lung and heart problems that most especially affect children. Authorities fail to protect citizens, so Ecopolis believes that legal action needs to be taken to ensure a clean environment for the citizens of the Capital.

ClientEarth is an environmental law charity, with offices in LondonBrusselsWarsawBerlin, and Beijing. It was founded in 2008 by James Thornton. As lawyers and environmental experts, they use the law to hold governments and other companies to account over climate change, nature loss and pollution.

Center for Sustainable Policies Ecopolis is a Romanian environmental organization concerned with the problem of urban pollution for over a decade. In 2011, the organization launched the first independent study on the effects of air pollution in Bucharest on human health and since then has carried out numerous advocacy actions to promote measures to combat urban pollution. In December 2019, together with the ETA2U Foundation and 2Celsius as partners, launched the independent air quality measurement platform The platform aims at monitoring the pollution in Bucharest and at informing the citizens about its effects.

2Celsius is a European climate centred advocacy and research organization from Central and Eastern Europe, registered in Romania. A full-fledged member of the main EU environmental networks such as Transport & Environment, European Environmental Bureau, and Climate Action Network, 2C, over more than decade rolled projects related to clean transports, biodiversity conservation, bioenergy, and climate policies. 2C is also focusing on strategic litigation in climate and environmental causes at both European Court of Justice and national Courts. The organization has also developed an environmental media production branch.

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