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Government Forced To Take Immediate Action on Air Quality

April 30, 2015
Public Health

The Supreme Court has ruled that the government must take immediate action to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels. A unanimous ruling by a panel of five judges, headed by court president Lord Neuberger, ordered that ministers have until 31st December to prepare and consult on new air quality plans for submission to the European Commission.

Alan Andrews, lawyer for the environmental group Client Earth, who brought the case to court, said “This ruling will benefit everyone’s health but particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions like asthma and heart and lung conditions. The next Government, regardless of the political party or parties which take power, is now legally bound to take urgent action on this public health crisis.”

Last year government figures showed only five out of a total 43 urban areas in Britain would comply with EU limits by 2015. Greater London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire urban areas, were unlikely to comply before 2030. On hearing the decision, DEFRA officials pointed out that average roadside concentrations of NO2 have fallen by 15% since 2010, while the UK is complying with EU limits for all other air pollutants.

Many experts believe that the official figure of 29,000 deaths in the UK attributed to air pollution, which is more than alcohol and obesity combined, may be an underestimate, as it doesn’t include NO2 emissions largely from diesel powered vehicles. Last year London Mayor Boris Johnson, came out in favour of a diesel scrappage scheme after learning levels of NO2 in Oxford Street were the highest in Europe.

You can read a copy of the full court ruling HERE