Michael Gove

Gove faces court hearing on air pollution

One of Michael Gove’s first actions as Environment Secretary will be to defend his government’s poor plans to clean up the UK’s filthy air, with a hearing ordered by the High Court in the coming weeks.

The government’s plans to clean up illegal air pollution across the country were released on 5 May, despite a last-minute bid by the government to delay them. The consultation on the plans contained such major flaws that the environmental law organisation was forced to take the UK government back to court to seek urgent improvements.

“Michael Gove has a career-defining opportunity here to be remembered as the minister who finally cleaned up our country’s illegally bad air pollution,” said ClientEarth CEO James Thornton.

“The government has twice been ordered to produce plans to bring down air pollution as soon as possible. We hope that the new Secretary of State is able to get a grip of this problem. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air.”

In April 2015, ClientEarth won its case against the government in the Supreme Court, with judges ordering ministers to come up with a plan to reduce air pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible.

The plan, released in December of that year, was so poor that ClientEarth took the government back to court. In November of last year, the government was again ordered, this time by the High Court, to revise its plans.

The  evidence provided by the government to accompany the latest plans shows that a network of clean air zones which stop the dirtiest diesel vehicles entering the most polluted areas of UK towns and cities would be the most effective solution (although the plan itself does not propose this).

ClientEarth believes such a network ought to be accompanied by policies which help people to move away from diesel vehicles to cleaner forms of transport.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution remain illegal in 37 of 43 zones across the country.

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