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EU Court Shoots Down Post-Dieselgate Emissions Standard, Empowers Cities to Fight Air Pollution

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The General Court of the European Union has upheld the cities of Paris, Brussels, and Madrid in a challenge to what they see as excessively high emissions standards set by the European Commission in the wake of the Dieselgate [1] standard, with C40 Cities hailing the decision as a “huge legal win”.

The 2016 regulation required automakers to test their emissions during real driving emissions (RDE) tests, but allowed new vehicles to exceed the 80 milligrams/kilometre limit set by the European Parliament in 2007 by 110% from 2017 to 2019, then subsequently by 50%. The ruling quashes that concession and gives the EC a year to amend the regulation.

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C40 Cities Chair and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo had previously called the standard a “licence to pollute”, while others considered it a betrayal of the Paris Agreement.

The judges also ruled that “an action for annulment brought by a person other than a Member State or an EU institution against a regulatory act is admissible,” C40 Cities notes.

“Reflecting the growing authority of cities as defenders of public health and climate action, the ruling sets a new legal precedent that local authorities can challenge the European Commission in court for their failure to improve the air quality in cities and communities across the EU,” the organization states in a release. “Cities are now empowered, and industrial lobbies must now know that cities have the political capacity and legal authority to stop the future we don’t want.”

“For too long car manufacturers and industrial lobbies have been able to dictate the rules that regulate some of their most polluting products,” Hidalgo said in the release. “Today, the General Court of the European Union backed our argument that this is a betrayal of the people of Europe. Cities are getting the job done and will now make sure it is perfectly done, thanks to this legal precedent….Our voices cannot be silenced any longer.”

“Progress is never made unless vested interests are challenged,” added C40 Cities Executive Director Mark Watts. “The Mayors of Paris, Madrid, and Brussels have refused to accept the status quo and existing legal structures, and today that bold leadership has paid off for the benefit of every citizen of Europe.”

Watts noted that air pollution causes more than 460,000 premature deaths each year across Europe.