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Defra’s latest figures estimate there are 40,000 early deaths across the UK every year because of air pollution
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ClientEarth against UK government in High Court over illegal air pollution

Ecologist reporter

18th October, 2016

Environmental Lawyers group ClientEarth is in court today to bring a case against the Government for failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the UK

Air quality in this country is nothing short of a public health crisis

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are bringing the UK government back to the High Court today (October 18) and tomorrow (October 19) for failing to deal with illegal levels of air pollution in the UK. ClientEarth will be fighting the government on its failure to tackle the national air pollution crisis for the second time in as many years.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: "Defra's latest figures estimate there are 40,000 early deaths across the UK every year because of air pollution. The government is acting unlawfully by refusing to turn this situation around. It is failing morally and it is failing legally to uphold our right to breathe clean air.

"The government must come up with far bolder measures, ready to face this issue head-on.

"Air quality in this country is nothing short of a public health crisis."

ClientEarth won its case in 2015 in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the UK government must come up with plans to combat the crisis and bring pollution down to legal levels "as soon as possible".

But the plans adopted in December last year outlined vague proposals that wouldn't have secured compliance until at least 2025 and even this relied on hugely overoptimistic assumptions about emissions from diesel vehicles.

The original deadline for compliance was 2010.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has joined the case after being named as an interested party in the case and his legal representatives will appear in court today too.

Measures for the government to consider in an improved air quality plan (AQP) should include:

  • A national network of Clean Air Zones (CAZs)
  • A retrofitting scheme for buses and HGVs
  • A diesel scrappage scheme
  • A consumer labelling scheme to show which vehicles meet legal emissions limits
  • Reconsidering tax schemes that favour diesel purchases


ClientEarth has launched a wave of clean air cases around Europe in recent weeks, including Brno and Prague in the Czech Republic, and Brussels in Belgium. It has already won cases in Poland and Germany.




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