The Ministry for Ecological Transition (MITECO) urges all administrations with competencies in air quality -Central government, autonomous communities and municipalities- to work in a coordinated manner to ensure optimum air quality, which complies with current regulations.

To do this, it is necessary to act quickly, expanding the measures that are underway and incorporating new solutions that guarantee public health.

The European Commission has decided today, Thursday, July 25, to denounce Spain before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for breaching the legal limits of carbon dioxide (NO2) -a pollutant associated in the cities to road traffic- in three parts of the country: the city of Madrid, the so-called Barcelona Area, which encompasses 19 municipalities, including that of the Catalan capital; and the Vallès-Baix Llobregat area, although the latter already complied with the legal limits last year.

With this decision, the Commission begins a new phase of the infringement procedure that the Kingdom of Spain has opened since 2014 for exceeding the legal values ​​of NO2 and which, if substantiated in its entirety, could imply the imposition of an economic fine. However, the European Commission continues its monitoring of the progress of the Spanish administrations and the file could be closed if they prove compliance with the regulations.

For this to happen, it is necessary that all administrations, in a coordinated manner and acting as quickly as possible, consolidate and expand the measures currently in force, and incorporate new solutions that cause the decrease in current levels of NO2.

As reflected in the 2018 Air Quality Report, published by MITECO last Tuesday, the city of Madrid and the Barcelona Area exceeded the annual limit value allowed for NO2 (40 µg / m3). The maximum value reached in their respective measurement networks was 54 µg / m3 in Barcelona and 55 µg / m3 in Madrid. The capital of Spain also registered exceeding the hourly limit value of NO2.

Advances 2019

It is early to determine how compliance with the regulations in the affected areas progresses during 2019, a year that is registering lower rainfall, which negatively affects NO2 levels. However, some measures seem to start offering solutions. Thus, according to the MITECO air quality database, in the months of April, May and June 2019, 21 of the 24 measuring stations in the city of Madrid showed decreases in NO2 levels with respect to the same period of the last year. The most outstanding decrease occurred in the Plaza del Carmen station, going from an average daily value of 40 µg / m3 to 23 µg / m3.

In the Barcelona Area, better data has also been recorded in the last quarter, compared to the same period of the previous year: of the 18 air quality measurement stations installed in this area, 16 stations indicate decreases in the average value.

In addition, the Vallés-Baix Llobregat area, also included in the EU infringement file, failed to comply with the regulations in 2018.

On the other hand, the Urbana Sur zone, in the Community of Madrid, which was included in the infringement file in 2015, is no longer part of it, since it also complies with the legal limits.

Infringement Procedure

Once the European Commission's application is filed with the CJEU, a process is opened – with a written and an oral phase – in which the judges listen to the parties, before issuing a sentence. In this phase of the process, if the court finds that Spain has breached European regulations, it would issue a sentence that does not include penalties. It would simply declare that, as a Member State, Spain has failed to comply with its obligations under the EU Treaties and that it is obliged to take the necessary measures to execute the CJEU judgment.

If the declarative sentence were condemnatory, a period would be opened for the Spanish administrations to execute what was ruled by the judges. After this, if the European Commission finds that the necessary measures have not been taken, it could again denounce the country before the CJEU, which would open a second process that, in this case, could be substantiated with a ruling that includes economic sanctions for Spain.

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