We sue the UK government for failing to protect people from air pollution
ClientEarth has brought a judicial review against the UK Government for failing to protect people's health from toxic levels of air pollution.
Bad air quality, chiefly caused by vehicle emissions in our towns and cities, is a national disgrace. Each year 29,000 people die prematurely in the UK because of air pollution - this is more people than die, or sustain serious injuries, in road traffic accidents.
UK and EU law set limits for air pollution based on the scientific analyses of health risks by the World Health Organization. ClientEarth is legally challenging the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for failing to produce plans that will reduce nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels (to within legal limits by 1 January 2015), and for refusing to consult the public on plans to reduce dangerous airborne particles (PM10) in London - despite ClientEarth reminding them in April of their legal responsibility to do so.
James Thornton, ClientEarth CEO, said: "Since modern air quality laws were introduced, successive governments have failed to clean up the air we breathe. This is despite the 29,000 deaths a year that government figures suggest result from pollution. We cannot afford to waste any more time by ignoring this invisible killer."
"The Coalition promised it would "work towards full compliance with European Air Quality Standards" in its programme for government. By refusing to meet their responsibilities on air pollution their claim to be the `greenest government ever' is disappearing in a cloud of toxic fumes."
On what grounds is the UK government failing to protect our health?
In the UK 40 of the 43 `air quality zones' do not comply with legal limits for NO2. The deadline for complying with these limits was 1 January 2010. The UK government plans to apply to the European Commission in the autumn for time extensions. To apply successfully it must demonstrate that it has plans which will bring NO2 within these limits by 1 January 2015. The government has acted unlawfully by drafting 17 plans that will not do this. The plan for London acknowledges that compliance may not be achieved until 2025.
When amending an air quality plan, the government is required by law to consult the public. The Secretary of State recently successfully applied to the EU for a time extension to comply with legal limits for PM10, (the original deadline was 1 January 2005). The European Commission allowed the time extension on the condition that the government amended the air quality plan for London to include short-term measures to deal with PM10. ClientEarth wrote to Defra in April to remind them of their legal responsibility to consult the public.