Battling for breath
A shocking 95% of the world’s population breathe dirty air every day, and more than 400,000 European citizens die early because of air pollution. Toxic air is now found in most European cities.
In this series we are exploring the value of regulation in protecting people and planet. We have travelled across Europe to meet real people fighting to protect the things they cherish, using – or calling for – regulation to help their struggle. In this episode, we travel to Amsterdam, where the air is having life-altering effects on residents. While national and local governments fail to act, people are demanding change.
Fighting something invisible isn’t easy, but one of the best weapons we have to clean up our air is policy.
Policies to give us safe air to breathe could make all the difference. The EU has air quality laws, but they are weak and not enforced. This means that countries can – and do – get away with poisoning the air.
“Why can’t we put more energy and effort into making everyone healthy and able to breathe healthy air?”
– Tanya Ruiter, member of the Air Watchers
Strong lobbying from, among others, the car industry, and the so-called ‘better regulation’ agenda of the EU have contributed to the EU refraining from stricter and more comprehensive regulation on air quality.
The EU has suggested that it will take legal action against countries breaking these laws. It has referred several countries to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Let’s hope this is a step towards effective implementation and the protection of people across Europe.
We need the EU to lead on creating strong and enforceable clean air laws, and for local and national governments to implement them. Countries which break these laws should be punished, and citizens need to keep the pressure on by demanding their right to clean and healthy air. We need people pushing for policy, and policy prioritising people.
In 2018, the EU finally took action to enforce air pollution standards and took 6 member states to the Court of Justice of the European Union and started infringement procedures against 10 more countries. However, the Netherlands is not on the list.
- Milieudefensie, The air watchers
- Milieudefensie’s lawsuit for the right to clean air (including health statistics)
- EU delaying infringement charges [Air Quality News]
- 23 out of 28 EU member states breaching air pollution limits [EurActiv]
- Air pollution: Everything you need to know. Scientific references of how and why air pollution is harmful
- Learn more about Milieudefensie’s campaign for the right to clean air
What can I do?
- Volunteer with the air watchers - or your local air pollution action group!
Sign the petition for clean air in the Netherlands!
Special thanks to: Marjolijn Rijskamp