ClientEarth plots third court action over air quality plan

The Environmental campaign group ClientEarth announced today (31 May) that it is to take the government to court for a third time over the latest draft of its plans to tackle air pollution.

ClientEarth, which successfully challenged the government’s proposals to bring emissions in line with EU legal limits through the High Court twice in 2016 and 2015, is calling for ‘drastic improvements’ to the draft plan launched for consultation by the government earlier this month.

The High Court ordered Defra to produce a final Air Quality Plan by July 2017

Plans to reduce nitrogen dioxide were outlined by the government on 5 May, after it had been unsuccessful in postponing the deadline for publication of the proposals until after the General Election (see story).

ClientEarth has claimed that it has found ‘major flaws’ in the proposals put forward by the government, in particular on incentives to encourage people not to use diesel vehicles. However, responding today, Defra minister Therese Coffey emphasised that the option of targeted diesel scrappage schemes were being consulted on.


The consultation launched by the government — which runs until 15 June — does not contain a specific commitment to a diesel car scrappage scheme, although the measure does feature in the consultation questionnaire and technical report on the proposals.

Measures outlined in the plan include increasing the number of charge points for electric vehicles, addressing congestion at road humps, pinch points and “poorly managed” traffic lights and improving vehicle labelling to give consumers information on emissions.

James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth said: “We have been looking at the fine detail of the draft Air Quality Plans published by the government. We want to respond to the government’s consultation, and want others to be able to as well.

“We have found some major flaws. The law requires the final plan to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest time possible. These flaws seriously jeopardise that timetable.

“These are plans for more plans, what we need are plans for action.”


Despite revealing its new legal action today, the environmental law group said it was still “vitally important” for people comment on the draft plans through the consultation.

Responding to the announcement of a fresh legal challenge, Conservative Environment Minister Therese Coffey, said: “Conservatives will further improve air quality while making sure that ordinary working families are not penalised for Labour’s mistakes. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and his Coalition of Chaos would hit you in the pocket with higher taxes.

“The government is also consulting on what further steps can be taken to mitigate any cost and burdens on ordinary working families and local firms — including the options of targeted scrappage schemes and retrofitting initiatives.

“Let’s remember why this is an issue in the first place: the last Labour government incompetently encouraged people to buy diesel cars and we are taking action to put it right.”

Related Links

Consultation – Improving air quality


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