Defra faces Court of Appeal hearing over air pollution

The Government will face a fresh hearing in the Court of Appeal tomorrow (May 30) over claims it has failed to bring illegal air pollution levels under control.

The case against Defra was brought to the High Court by activist law group ClientEarth in December last year, after European Union air pollution limits were breached in 17 regions and cities in the UK, including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

However, no action was taken against the Government, with the judge ruling it was a matter for the European Commission. The Court of Appeal has now agreed that the case should be re-examined.

The legal challenge brought against environment secretary Caroline Spelman saw the minister forced to admit that the UK’s air pollution levels had been breached after it failed to achieve the limits set for January 1 2010.

ClientEarth have warned that the UK will not achieve legal limits for air quality until 2020, with the exemption of London which won’t achieve this until 2025.

It has also raised concerns that Defra’s plans to ensure nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels fall within the legal limit by 2015 will fail.

ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton, said: “The Government is failing to act to tackle Britain’s air pollution crisis – by its own admission the UK won’t meet legal air quality standards until 2025. That’s why we are asking the court to step in. We need a clear and credible plan to clean up the vehicles that are choking Britain’s roads.”

“While people are dying, the Government is fighting against its legal responsibilities in the courts and lobbying to weaken the laws which are in place to protect our health. Two months before the Olympics, this is nothing short of a national disgrace.”

Carys Matthews

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