Government sued over EU air breaches

29th July 2011


Cal 141 clientearth at the rcj 280711 email

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

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IEMA

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."

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