Air quality legal challenge fixed for January hearing

Legal proceedings against the government’s plan to address air pollution in towns and cities across the country will be heard in the High Court in London later this month (January 25).

The case is the third to be brought by the environmental law charity ClientEarth which has led successful campaigns against the government over its air quality plans to bring the UK into compliance with EU limits on nitrogen dioxide.

A hearing on the latest version of the government’s air quality plan will take place in London on 25 January

ClientEarth named 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.

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” (see story).

The group had previously led two successful legal campaigns against the government over its air quality plans, the latest of which in 2016 resulted in a renewed plan having been put forward in July.


The July plan for tackling roadside NO2 concentrations identifies more than 20 local authority areas where breach of the legal limits are expected and directs local authorities to produce a plan to address the problem by spring 2018 (see story).

However, ClientEarth has claimed that this 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 claimed.

ClientEarth has called for a network of charging clean air zones across the country — which it claims would be the most effective measure to address air pollution. Polling carried out on behalf of the charity, and published today, has suggested that around half (52%) of the UK population would support such a measure.

Commenting ahead of the case, a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010, but we recognise there is more to do which is why we have put in place a £3.5billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“We will also end the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040, and later this year we will publish a comprehensive clean air strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution.”


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