Government faces legal action on clean air targets

The Good Law Project has launched a landmark legal case to force the UK government to urgently review its Clean Air Strategy in light of a growing body of evidence suggesting that there is a link between air pollution and COVID-19. 

Multiple studies from around the world have suggested that there is a link between poor air quality and both the occurrence and severity of COVID-19. 

The government’s current Clean Air Strategy aims to reduce the number of people exposed to air pollution, however the strategy has been widely criticised for failing to recognise any meaningful targets on particulate matter (PM2.5) – one of the most harmful pollutants to human health. 

Therefore, the legal case, which is being brought by the Good Law Project in collaboration with Mums for Lungs, Students for Global Health and the UK Youth Climate Coalition, is calling on the government to review its Clean Air Strategy. 

The campaign groups have said that although the evidence is not yet conclusive, the government has a legal obligation to review the Clean Air Strategy because of the ‘precautionary principle.’

In an environmental context, this means that a lack of full scientific knowledge should not delay remedial steps when a threat of serious or irreversible damage to the environment or human health has been identified. 

The lawyers have requested a response from the Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs by September 16. 

Jolyon Maugham, director of Good Law Project said: ‘If you smell gas, you turn it off at the mains right away, you don’t sit on your hands and wait for the engineer to confirm that your house is definitely going to blow up.

‘But that’s exactly how this Government is responding to the mounting evidence that dirty, polluted air means you are more likely to catch Covid-19 and die from the virus.

‘When human life is at risk, we cannot afford to wait for absolute confirmation of this link. Our legal challenge seeks to force the Government to adopt the precautionary principle, and urgently review its air pollution strategy.’

Jane Dutton, from Mums for Lungs added: ‘Pre-Covid19 around 40,000 people were dying every year as a consequence of the high levels of air pollution in the UK.

‘And many more become sick and unwell as a result of air pollution, from low birth weight to respiratory illnesses, cancer, diabetes and even dementia.

‘Government has known for a decade that many residents are breathing illegally polluted air all the time. The need to effectively address air pollution primarily from traffic and woodburning has never been more urgent than during this respiratory health crisis.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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