Defra faces further legal action over air pollution

18th December 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Transport ,
  • Politics & Economics ,
  • England ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management


Angela Keenan

New government plans to reduce air pollution in cities do not go far enough, according to lawyers at ClientEarth, who have threatened further legal action in the new year.

The environment department (Defra) was ordered by the Supreme Court in April to come up with proposals to deal with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution by the end of the year after a successful case by Client Earth.

Defra yesterday confirmed plans to create clean air zones in Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020. The zones will introduce charges for buses, taxis, coaches and lorries that do not meet minimum standards.

Birmingham and Leeds will also discourage the most polluting diesel vans from entering city centres and implement measures such as park and ride schemes, signage, changes in road layouts and infrastructure for alternative fuels to help improve air quality, Defra said.

Private passenger vehicles will not have to pay, and the zones will be located in "a small number of air quality hotspots," Defra said.

Local authorities will have to carry out feasibility studies, which will be paid for by the government, before consulting on the details of the zones, including the charges. The charges should be designed to reduce pollution, not to raise additional revenue beyond recovering the cost of the scheme, Defra stressed.

Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "Our clean air zones are targeted on the largest vehicles, while not affecting car owners and minimising the impact on business.

"We want to ensure people can continue to drive into city centres and by targeting action at the most polluting coaches, taxis, buses and lorries we will encourage the use of cleaner vehicles."

However, Alan Andrews, a lawyer at ClientEarth, said: "In April, the Supreme Court ordered the government to come up with a plan to achieve legal pollution limits as soon as possible. The government's latest plan for clean air zones doesn't tackle pollution from passenger cars - one of the biggest sources of pollution, and ignores the problem in dozens of other cities where people are breathing illegal levels of pollution."

He said a team of lawyers would study Defra's plans in more detail, but warned: "If on further examination we are not fully satisfied, and we believe that thousands more lives will be put at risk, then we will take the government back to court in the new year."

Defra also published its latest statistics on air pollutants in the UK. Emissions of sulphur dioxide dropped 20.3% between 2013 and 2014, while nitrogen oxides fell by 8.4%. Emissions of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and non-methane volatile organic compounds declined by 2%, 3.1% and 0.4% respectively over the same period.

Emissions from ammonia increased by 3.3%, however. This was mainly due to agriculture, which was responsible for 83.3% of ammonia emissions in 2014, Defra said. Increases in both the size of dairy herds and the use of nitrogen in fertiliser were behind the rise, according to the department.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

UK public wants more involvement in planning process, IEMA research finds

Three in five British adults want more public involvement in the planning system, which could be at odds with Labour’s plans to boost economic growth, IEMA research has found.

3rd July 2024

Read more

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

Rivers and waterways across England and Wales are increasingly polluted by sewage spills. What is causing the crisis and what is being done to tackle it? Huw Morris reports

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

In January, the Welsh government consulted on a proposed white paper, 'Securing a Sustainable Future: Environmental Principles, Governance and Biodiversity Targets for a Greener Wales'.

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close