Government sued over EU air breaches

29th July 2011

Cal 141 clientearth at the rcj 280711 email

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • EU ,
  • Central government



Environmental law organisation ClientEarth has issued judicial review proceedings against the government over the UK's failure to meet EU air pollution standards.

Air quality in London has not met targets set out in EU Directives 1999/30/EC and 96/62/EC, which limit the concentration of airborne particles known as PM10, since the directives came into force. And, more recently 40 of the UK’s 43 “air quality zones” failed to comply with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as set out in the Directive on ambient air quality (2008/50/EC).

Currently Defra is consulting on action plans that will form the basis of the UK’s petition to postpone meeting the NO2 targets. These plans must be submitted in September. In July, the European Commission accepted proposed plans from the government to meet extended deadlines to meet PM10 targets.

Despite these moves, ClientEarth has launched a legal challenge, alleging that Defra refused to consult the public on its plans for reducing PM10 particles and for the department’s failure to produce plans to bring NO2 levels within legal limits by 1 January 2015.

“Since modern air quality laws were introduced, successive governments have failed to clean up the air we breathe. This is despite the 29,000 deaths a year that government figures suggest result from pollution. We cannot afford to waste any more time by ignoring this invisible killer,” warned James Thornton, ClientEarth’s chief executive.

“The coalition promised it would ‘work towards full compliance with European air quality standards’ … By refusing to meet their responsibilities on air pollution their claim to be the ‘greenest government ever’ is disappearing in a cloud of toxic fumes.”

Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air in London, said: "ClientEarth's action is much needed. Air pollution may have contributed to all 15,800 cardiovascular deaths in London in 2009 at an average additional loss of life for each of those people of some three years. The government and the Mayor of London can no longer ignore the biggest public health crisis since the great smog of 1952."


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

Consumers are flexing their purchasing power in support of more sustainable products and services. Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO of sustainability intelligence and analytics firm, Risilience, considers the risk of greenwashing and sets out three key steps businesses can take to avoid the pitfalls and meet the opportunities of changing consumer demand.

18th June 2024

Read more

Groundbreaking legislation on air and noise pollution and measures to tackle growing concerns over disposable vapes provide the focus for Neil Howe’s environmental legislation update

6th June 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Dr Julie Riggs issues a call to arms to tackle a modern-day human tragedy

15th March 2024

Read more

The UK’s new biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements could create 15,000 hectares of woodlands, heath, grasslands, and wetlands and absorb 650,000 tonnes of carbon each year.

13th March 2024

Read more

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 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