ClientEarth clean air case set for October hearing

ClientEarth’s court case against the UK government for illegal levels of air pollution will be heard on 18 & 19 October, after having been ‘fast-tracked’ by a High Court judge.

The environmental law group launched a second court case against the UK government in March 2016 over claims that its plans to tackle air pollution in Britain are inadequate (see story).

ClientEarth's Alan Andrews

ClientEarth’s Alan Andrews

Mrs Justice Lang agreed to ClientEarth’s request to fast-track the case, which challenges the government’s plans to develop a new plan to bring air pollution within legal limits.

Defra’s proposals are a response to the Supreme Court’s order in April 2015, which forced the government to take “immediate action” to cut air pollution. The case centres on illegal levels (under EU law) of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “This is good news for everyone who wants to breathe clean air. The government has been dragging its feet, doing the bare minimum and hoping that air pollution levels drop over time. Unless the Government is forced to act, air pollution will go on making people sick and causing tens of thousands of early deaths every year in this country.

“The government has a legal and moral duty to tackle illegal air pollution, for the sake of people who are breathing in toxic fumes day in-day out, as they simply go about their lives.

“This is a reminder of how EU law protects British people from dangerous air pollution.”

A five-year battle

In April 2015, ClientEarth won its five-year legal battle with the government over illegal levels of air pollution in the UK, when the Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to come up with plans that would bring air pollution in the UK within legal levels as soon as possible. (see story)

Defra’s plans, produced in December 2015, included proposals to establish Clean Air Zones in five cities in England by 2020. ClientEarth claims that the government’s plans do not go far enough towards tackling levels of NO2 and would leave the UK in breach EU legal limits until at least 2025.

In response to the plans, ClientEarth brought a fresh legal challenge in March 2016 and has now been granted an expedited hearing date for the case in the High Court. ClientEarth has asked judges to strike down the plans, order new ones and intervene to make sure the government acts.

Under the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive, all EU member states have been bound by limits on air pollution since 2010. The UK has failed to meet limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 38 of the 43 “zones”. One of the key sources of NO2 is diesel vehicles.

When contacted by, Defra declined to comment due to ongoing legal proceedings.



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