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The European Court of Justice today ruled that Poland has infringed EU law on ambient air quality (Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe).

Weronika Michalak, HEAL’s Health and Energy Programme Manager in Poland commented: “The ECJ’s ruling is a wake-up call for the Polish government to finally take concrete steps to improve air quality, including effectively tackling low stack emissions and phasing out fossil fuels. Burning coal in home stoves and boilers is the main source of PM10 emissions in Poland; and almost all of Poland’s energy comes from coal power generation. The country is home to the Belchatow power plant, the most polluting plant in the whole of the EU“.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) in its latest report on air quality estimates that air pollution in Poland causes around 45,000 early deaths annually. The report also points out that road transport, agriculture, power plants, industry and households are the biggest emitters of air pollutants in Europe.

Despite the dire air quality situation in Poland and the need to take measures, the Polish government, together with Bulgaria is currently challenging tougher EU air pollution standards for coal power plants.

On that, Weronika Michalak added: “If the Polish government is serious about cleaning up the air we breathe, it needs to tackle low stack emissions but at the same time withdraw the legal challenge brought against new standards for emission limits from coal power plants (the LCP BREF). The government should put the real interests of the citizens first and strive for a healthy energy future for Poland“.

Following the ruling, the Polish government will now have to take steps to improve air quality. The European Commission can then take Poland to court again if it thinks the country has failed to take the necessary measures for compliance.

Read our Polish press statement here.