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UK Government has a duty to protect all UK citizens from pollution

The UK government’s inadequate air quality plan fails to ensure proper measures will clean up illegal pollution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, ClientEarth will argue in the High Court on Wednesday.

The environmental law organisation also believes that the plan for England is fundamentally flawed. ClientEarth has taken the Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs to the High Court for failing to comply with the court’s order to produce a plan to bring air pollution across the UK down to within legal levels as soon as possible.

The UK Government’s draft plan, which it was ordered to produce by April 24 this year and attempted to delay until after the general election (a move that was denied by High Court Judge Mr Justice Garnham), sets out no evidence of any plans for concrete actions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

No choice but to return to court

ClientEarth, which argued against a delay to the release of the draft plans in April, says this is a breach of the court order and is dismayed at having to take the government back to court again. To avoid a further hearing, the non-profit environmental lawyers wrote to Defra asking for the draft plans and consultation to be supplemented, but had their request rejected by the department.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “The draft plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are plans for more plans. The court ordered a plan for the government to obey the law on pollution limits as soon as possible. The health of all UK citizens is at stake here but the government is not acting accordingly.”

ClientEarth will also argue in court on Wednesday that the government’s plans do not meet the court order in several other ways.

For example, the government’s own evidence shows that charging certain vehicles to enter the most polluted parts of the UK’s towns and cities is the most effective way of achieving compliance with air quality laws, but ministers failed to effectively consult on what could be a very significant part of any new plan.

The timing of the hearing in the High Court next Wednesday will be released on Tuesday afternoon.

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Oliver Clarke

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