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ClientEarth expect court ruling on air quality appeal application before Christmas

UK Supreme Court of Justice last week began considering whether ClientEarth’s appeal against a December 2011 High Court air quality ruling should be heard

A Supreme Court of Justice decision on whether a campaign group’s appeal should be heard against UK plans to meet European Union air quality targets is expected before Christmas.

Last week, the UK Supreme Court began considering ClientEarth’s application for permission to appeal a ruling in July 2012, which declared that any action to force the government to submit a new strategy for improving air quality would need to be carried out by the European Commission.

ClientEarth is in the process of appealing a December 2011 High Court ruling on air quality

ClientEarth’s clean air lawyer Alan Andrews said he now expects a decision before Christmas 2012 and is confident that the court will decide that the appeal should be heard.

However, if the Court decides not to hear the appeal, the next course of action for ClientEarth would be to take the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which could take another 18 months.

National importance

Mr Andrews said: “It is crystal ball territory with regards to what will be the outcome, but we feel this is a good case of national and continental importance as everybody should have a right to clean air. The Supreme Court is there to decide on these sorts of big, important issues.”

He continued: “I’m confident we’ll get a hearing, whether we will win in the end is obviously a different matter. Although there’s good a chance it will end up being referred to the European Court of Justice.”

December 2011 ruling

The original High Court ruling in December 2011 had forced the government to concede that the UK was above the legal pollution limit set by the European Union, although ClientEarth then lost its appeal against this ruling in July.

The group launched the appeal on the grounds that the government’s decision not to apply for a five-year extension to produce a plan to bring the UK in-line with the EU targets “undermined the effectiveness” of the EU initiative, designed to protect public health.

Speaking in July before launching the appeal, Mr Andrews said: “When the Government started this in 2010, it knew the hourly limit for NO2 was breached in the first three weeks of 2010 and it always knew there wasn’t a London plan. When we received a copy of the government’s plans, in 43 zones, 40 were in breach in 2010 and 17 would not achieve compliance until after 2015, most 2020.”

However, a spokesman for Defra said after the July ruling: “A significant part of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants and air quality has improved considerably in recent decades.  Our air quality plans for nitrogen dioxide set out all the important work being done to meet EU standards in the shortest possible time.”

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