ClientEarth plans to launch legal proceedings unless it receives a â€˜satisfactory replyâ€™ from Defra by March 10
The UK government has â€œ10 days to act on air pollutionâ€ or face further legal action in the High Court, ClientEarth warned today (March 1).
The environmental NGO has sent Environment Secretary Liz Truss a letter with a final legal warning as it claims Defraâ€™s plan to tackle UK air pollution â€“ published in December 2015 â€“ falls â€œwoefully short of what was ordered by courtâ€.
It is the latest legal threat made against Defra by ClientEarth over air pollution, with the organisation having successfully forced the government to produce a new air quality plan after a Supreme Court ruling last year (see AirQualityNews.com story). That ruling also included provision for ClientEarth to take the matter back to court.
Measures in the new air quality plan include proposals for Clean Air Zones in five English cities, which Defra says will help the UK reach compliance with EU legal air quality limits by 2025 (see AirQualityNews.com story).
However, the plan has been criticised by ClientEarth for not being ambitious enough and the organisation has repeatedly threatened to take Defra back to court in order to make sure the plans ensure compliance with EU air quality limits â€˜in the shortest possible timeâ€™.
â€œWe have had to issue this legal warning to the government because of its failure to produce a plan that would bring air pollution down as soon as possible” – James Thornton, ClientEarth
And, today, ClientEarth issued Defra its final warning in a written letter, stating that if it does not receive a satisfactory reply from the Department within 10 days, it will launch legal proceedings in the High Court.
It follows a report last week by a UK doctorsâ€™ body which linked air pollution to the early deaths of around 40,000 people every year (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Chief executive of ClientEarth, James Thornton, said: â€œDespite an order from the UKâ€™s highest court, despite tens of thousands of premature deaths in this country every year and despite clear evidence to show that air pollution has a terrible effect on the health of vulnerable groups like children, the government has consistently ducked its responsibility to ensure our right to clean air.
â€œWe have had to issue this legal warning to the government because of its failure to produce a plan that would bring air pollution down as soon as possible.â€
“Our plans clearly set out how we will improve the UKâ€™s air quality” – Defra spokesperson
ClientEarth has asked the government to produce new plans with a list of measures that will bring air pollution within legal limits in the â€œshortest time possibleâ€ and to put these plans out to public consultation.
Responding to criticism of its air quality plan, a spokesperson for Defra said: â€œOur plans clearly set out how we will improve the UKâ€™s air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones, which alongside national action and continued investment in clean technologies will create cleaner, healthier air for all.â€