Environmental lawyers demand revision of Budapest air quality plan

Environmental lawyers from Clean Air Action Group (CAAG), Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA) and ClientEarth have demanded the Hungarian authorities urgently review the Air Quality Plan for Budapest and its surroundings.

Air pollution in the Hungarian capital exceeds legal limits and the Air Quality Plan is inadequate, claim the lawyers.

They stress the plan does not contain any substantial measures to promptly reduce household emissions resulting from illegal burning of mixed waste, treated wood, tires and waste oil, despite the fact these extremely harmful substances are quite common in use in uptown Budapest and suburban areas, even in summer. The measures foreseen for the reduction of transport emission are very weak, for example nothing is to be done to limit the movement of the most polluting vehicles in densely populated areas.

“It is in everyone’s interest that the authorities develop plans and implement measures that substantially improve the situation within a short timeframe. Numerous international examples prove that this is feasible as long as there is political will. For instance, with high public awareness and decisive action from the authorities, illegal burning could be prevented. Low emission zones could also be created in cities, from which highly polluting vehicles would be excluded” – declared András Lukács, president of Clean Air Action Group.

“According to Hungarian and EU law Hungarians have the right to clean air and governments are obliged to comply with this law. Polluted air is harmful to human health, so we need to make sure that air quality plans include effective measures that will improve the quality of air as quickly as possible” – added Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan, one of Client Earth’s lawyers.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest estimate, 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air, while according to European Environment Agency (EEA) data, air pollution is linked to the equivalent of approximately 13,000 premature deaths in Hungary every year.

The need for more serious government action is also illustrated by the European Commission’s ongoing infringement procedure against Hungary, for the protection of the general public from unhealthy air pollution levels. Reports suggest, the case may be referred to the European Court of Justice by the end of May, which could have serious financial consequences for Hungary.

The last time Pest County Government Office reviewed the air quality plan was in 2016. The plan does not contain any concrete and enforceable measures to substantially reduce air pollution in the city and the suburbs.