ClientEarth to take government back to court over NO2 plan

Environmental law charity ClientEarth is taking legal action against the UK Government for a third time over its plans to address air pollution across the country, it has announced today (7 November).

According to the charity, the government’s latest plan for addressing nitrogen dioxide pollution at roadside locations “falls far short of what is needed to bring air pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible”.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews with supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice after lodging court papers for a previous legal action in March 2016

The group had previously led two successful legal campaigns against the government over its air quality plans to bring the country into compliance with EU limits on nitrogen dioxide, which had resulted in a renewed plan having been put forward in July (see story).

The latest UK Plan for tackling roadside NO2 concentrations identifies more than 20 local authority areas which are in breach of the legal limits and directs them to produce a plan to address the problem by spring 2018.


However, ClientEarth has claimed that the latest plan backtracks on previous commitments to order five cities to introduce ‘clean air zones’ by 2020, and does not require any action in 45 local authorities in England, despite them having NO2 levels that breach EU limits.

The plan does not require any action by Wales to bring down air pollution as quickly as possible, ClientEarth has added.

ClientEarth names the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Transport Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs in the Welsh Government as defendants.

Commenting on the latest legal action, ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “The UK Government’s stubborn failure to tackle illegal and harmful levels of pollution in this country means that we have no choice but to take legal action. We need clarity from the government and for that we’ve been forced to go back to court.

“This is a national problem that requires a national solution. The government’s own evidence shows that we need a national network of charging clean air zones, which will keep the dirtiest vehicles out of the most polluted areas of our towns and cities, so why aren’t drivers being prepared for it? It’s time ministers came clean about the size of the problem and the difficult decisions needed to solve it.”

Commenting this morning, a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “We have put in place a £3 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“We will also end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution.

“We now have an opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit and improve environmental standards as we leave the EU.”



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