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Gove falls at first hurdle on air pollution, say environmental lawyers

The UK Government’s new plans on tackling air pollution were published today. ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “On our initial examination, this is little more than a shabby rewrite of the previous draft plans and is underwhelming and lacking in urgency. Having promised to make air quality a top priority, Michael Gove appears to have fallen at the first hurdle.

“This plan is, yet again, a plan for more plans. The government is passing the buck to local authorities to come up with their own schemes as an alternative to clean air zones which charge the most polluting vehicles to enter our towns and cities. Yet Defra’s own evidence shows that charging clean air zones would be the swiftest way to tackle illegal levels of pollution.

“We are still looking at December 2018 before local authorities need to come up with their proposals but we have no idea when those plans would then be put in place or whether they’d be effective. The court ordered action by the UK to obey its own laws as soon as possible. This plan kicks the can down the road yet again.

“There’s also still too little attention paid to the devolved nations, where people also have the right to breathe better, healthier air.

“The 2040 diesel and petrol ban, while important, is a diversionary tactic and doesn’t deal with the public health emergency caused by illegally polluted air, now.

“The plan for new laws to fine manufacturers who cheat their emissions tests looks like another distraction technique since the government should already have these powers.”

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