EU Citizens May Sue States for Dangerous Dirty Air, Top Court Says

Citizens of the European Union are entitled to sue their governments for financial compensation if air pollution reaches illegal levels and damages their health, an adviser for the bloc’s top court said on Thursday.

“Advocate General Juliane Kokott takes the view that an infringement of the limit values for the protection of air quality under EU law may give rise to entitlement to compensation from the State,” the court said in a statement.

Kokott said, however, that claimants must prove that the damage to their health was directly caused by the air pollution.

A government may also avoid liability if it can prove that the health-damaging level of air pollution in a certain place would have still been there if it had followed a sufficient air quality plan, Kokott added.

Kokott noted that it is often poorer sectors that live in highly polluted places that are reliant on judicial protection.

Kokott’s opinion was given for a case from a Paris resident seeking €21 million in compensation from the French government for high levels of air pollution that damaged his health and for failing to comply with EU limits.

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