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Government on Trial over Air Quality

April 16, 2015
Environmental Crime

smogThe final hearing of a case brought by the environmental law group ClientEarth over the UK’s failure to meet EU air pollution limits will be heard in the Supreme Court today (Thursday). It is the culmination of a four-year legal battle over nitrogen dioxide targets which saw 40 out of 43 areas breach limits in 2010.

Last year, despite pleas from ministers for more time, the European Court of Justice ruled that proposals to deal with nitrogen dioxide levels should be in place during 2015 to cut the time to meet legal requirements to “as short as possible.” Campaigners are hoping the government will now be forced to come up with urgent plans to tackle the problem of poor air quality, which has been blamed for causing 29,000 excess deaths a year.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews told the London Evening Standard, “We all have the right to breathe clean air and ClientEarth has spent the last four years fighting to uphold that right in court,” he said. “The Government’s current plans won’t achieve legal limits for decades. Every year that goes by, thousands more people will die or be made seriously ill from heart attacks, asthma attacks, strokes and cancer.”

Current government plans show that nitrogen dioxide levels in Greater London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire urban areas are unlikely to meet EU limits until 2030. DEFRA has however defended its record by pointing to an investment of £2 billion since 2011 on ultra-low emission vehicles, sustainable travel and green transport. The final judgement from the case, which is one of 17 being taken against EU member states, could be delayed until July.

You can read further details about the case here