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ClientEarth Communications

28th April 2016

Air pollution

Judge decides UK government will face renewed legal action over air quality

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have been granted permission to take the UK government back to court over its failure to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

A judge at the High Court has granted our request to pursue a Judicial Review against Defra. It comes on the eve of the anniversary of ClientEarth’s victory at the Supreme Court last year.

ClientEarth’s CEO James Thornton said the decision by the court to grant a hearing was a victory in itself.

He said: “The UK government has claimed that it has done everything required by last year’s Supreme Court ruling.  By granting us permission to return to court the judge has decided that the government does indeed have a case to answer.”

ClientEarth lodged papers at the High Court in London in March – naming the UK Environment Secretary Liz Truss as defendant.

Papers were also served on Scottish and Welsh ministers, the Mayor of London and the Department for Transport as interested parties in the case.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “The government’s new plans to tackle air pollution are woefully inadequate and won’t achieve legal limits for years to come. The longer they are allowed to dither and delay, the more people will suffer from serious illness or an early death.”

“Today’s decision means we will be returning to court to demand that ministers respect our right to breathe clean air. The health evidence is mounting – and as we saw yesterday,  MPs from across the political spectrum agree with us that  the government is not doing enough.”

The UK sees an estimated 40,000 early deaths from air pollution every year. ClientEarth believes the government is in breach of its legal duty  to produce new air quality plans to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the “shortest possible time”, despite being ordered to do so by the UK Supreme Court.

The plans, released on 17 December last year, wouldn’t bring the UK within legal air pollution limits until 2025. The original, legally binding deadline passed in 2010.

ClientEarth has asked judges to strike down those plans, order new ones and intervene to make sure the government acts. The first hearing will take place on a date yet to be set by the court – but most likely during the summer.