ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE COURT
28 November 2013 (*)
In Case C‑404/13,
REQUEST for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, made by decision of 16 July 2013, received at the Court on 19 July 2013, in the proceedings
Regina, upon application by:
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
THE PRESIDENT OF THE COURT,
having regard to the proposal from J.-C. Bonichot, Judge-Rapporteur,
after hearing the Advocate General, N. Jääskinen,
makes the following
1 This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Articles 4 TEU and 19 TEU, and Articles 13, 22, 23 and 30 of and Annex XI to 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 (OJ 2008 L 152, p. 1).
2 The request has been made in the context of proceedings between ClientEarth, a non-governmental organisation promoting environmental protection, and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding that organisation’s request for the revision of the draft air quality plans drawn up by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in accordance with that directive.
3 The order for reference shows that, for the purposes of the assessment and management of air quality, under the conditions laid down by Directive 2008/50, the territory of the United Kingdom was divided into 43 zones and agglomerations within the meaning of that directive. In 40 of those zones and agglomerations, the limit values fixed by that directive for nitrogen dioxide were exceeded in the course of 2010. Draft air quality plans published on 9 June 2011 for public consultation indicated that in 17 zones and agglomerations, including ‘Greater London’, compliance with those limit values was expected to be achieved after 2015.
4 Final plans were submitted to the European Commission on 22 September 2011, as well as applications for time extensions for 24 of the 40 zones or agglomerations mentioned in the previous paragraph, pursuant to Article 22 of Directive 2008/50, supported by plans showing how the limit values fixed by that directive would be met by 1 January 2015 at the latest. No application was made under Article 22 of Directive 2008/50 for the 16 other zones or agglomerations, but air quality plans were prepared projecting compliance with the limit values between 2015 and 2025.
5 In a decision dated 25 June 2012, the European Commission raised objections to 12 of the 24 applications for time extensions, unconditionally approved 9 applications, and approved 3 subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. It made no comment on the zones for which compliance with the limit values by 2015 had not been shown.
6 On 13 December 2011, ClientEarth asked the High Court of Justice (England & Wales), Queen’s Bench Division (Administrative Court), inter alia, to order the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to revise the draft air quality plans so that they demonstrate how conformity with the limit values fixed by Directive 2008/50 for nitrogen dioxide will be achieved as soon as possible and by 1 January 2015 at the latest. That court rejected that request.
7 The appeal against that decision was dismissed by the Court of Appeal (England & Wales) (Civil Division), which permitted ClientEarth, however, to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
8 ClientEarth argued before the referring court that a Member State which was not able to achieve conformity with the limit values fixed by Directive 2008/50 for nitrogen dioxide by the deadline of 1 January 2010 was required to seek postponement of that deadline in accordance with Article 22 of that directive.
9 According to ClientEarth, it is for the national court to provide effective and dissuasive remedies for a breach of Article 13 of Directive 2008/50, which lays down the obligations of Member States as regards compliance with the limit values fixed by that directive, inter alia, for nitrogen dioxide, so as to ensure prompt compliance with European Union law obligations. In the present context, the proper remedy would be a mandatory order requiring production of air quality plans which demonstrate compliance with those limit values by 1 January 2015 and, as appropriate, a fine.
10 In those circumstances, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom decided to stay the proceedings and to refer to the Court questions for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Directive 2008/50 and its application.
11 By its questions, the referring court is asking, in essence, whether, where conformity with the limit values fixed by Directive 2008/50 for nitrogen dioxide was not achieved by the deadline of 1 January 2010 laid down in Annex XI to that directive, Member States are obliged to seek postponement of that deadline in accordance with Article 22 of that directive and, in the event that the national provisions do not comply with the requirements of that directive, what remedies a national court must provide to remedy that situation.
12 The referring court requests that the present request for a preliminary ruling be dealt with under the expedited procedure provided for in Article 105 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure. In support of its request, it states that, as the normal time-limit set for compliance with the limit values fixed by Directive 2008/50 for nitrogen dioxide has expired, and the extended time-limit will expire in 2015, the present case warrants the Court of Justice giving its decision quickly.
13 Under Article 105(1) of the Rules of Procedure, at the request of the referring court or tribunal or, exceptionally, of his own motion, the President of the Court may, where the nature of the case requires that it be dealt with within a short time, after hearing the Judge-Rapporteur and the Advocate General, decide that a reference for a preliminary ruling is to be determined pursuant to an expedited procedure derogating from the provisions of those rules.
14 In that regard, given that the expedited procedure is in the nature of a derogation, the single circumstance put forward by the referring court cannot justify the treatment of the present case according to that procedure.
15 First, in a situation such as that in the main proceedings where the normal time-limit set for compliance with the limit values fixed by Directive 2008/50 for nitrogen dioxide expired on 1 January 2010, it does not appear, given the period which has elapsed since that date, that the request for the interpretation of the provisions of European Union law determining the resultant obligations on the Member State concerned needs to be dealt with quickly.
16 Secondly, even if a new time-limit expiring on 1 January 2015 has been set for the compliance with those limit values in the zones or agglomerations affected by the main proceedings, there is no reason to suppose that the United Kingdom authorities will not have fulfilled their obligations in that regard on that date or, in any event, that the Court cannot rule on the present request for a preliminary ruling in good time before that date by following the ordinary procedure for examining that request.
17 In those circumstances, the referring court’s request that an expedited procedure be applied to this case cannot be granted.
On those grounds, the President of the Court hereby orders:
The request by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom that the accelerated procedure under Article 105(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice be applied to Case C‑404/13 is rejected.