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British court rules against government on dirty air

A British court has found its government guilty of failing to act on illegal UK air quality despite regulation promising to clean up.


ClientEarth CEO James Thornton outside court

Plaintif ClientEarth, an organisation of environmental lawyers battling specifically environmental law, has won its case against the Environment Secretary for its lack of definitive and tangible reductions in pollution. Reductions its ministers promised to make “as soon as possible” in order to bring the country into compliance.

Justice Garnham listended to two days of argument in the High Court in October, saying Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) used five-year pollution improvement modelling that was “inconsistent” with taking action “as soon as possible”.

The court found the Department used projected 2020 modelling because that’s when it expected to be fined by the European Commission, not in line with the 2015 Air Quality Plan where the term “as soon as possible” was an EU Directive.

“The time for legal action is over,” ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said. “This is an urgent public health crisis over which the Prime Minister must take personal control. I am pleased that the judge agrees with us that the government could and should be doing more to deal with air pollution and protecting people’s health.”

Further evidence revealed the Department’s original plans for a sizable network of a dozen ‘Clean Air Zones’ had been noticeably reduced to just five on top of London.

Mr Thornton urged the PM to get on with the job.

“I challenge Theresea May to take immediate action now to deal with illegal levels of pollution and prevent tens of thousands of additional early deaths in the UK.”