Sadiq Khan prepares to take on Defra with legal action over UK air quality

In his first week as London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has praised environmental law firm ClientEarth for its ongoing legal battle on air pollution, with City Hall confirming that Khan will be directly involved in renewed action against the Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra).

ClientEarth was last month granted permission to present a case to the UK Supreme Court against the UK Government over its ‘failure’ to meet deadlines for legal limits on air pollution.

The support for this legal action from Khan in his first week in office lives up to the new Mayor’s central environmental campaign pledge to significantly improve air quality in the capital.

A statement from a City Hall spokesperson said: “The Mayor was elected on a mandate to clean up London’s air. ClientEarth’s legal challenges are holding the Government to account on air pollution and as the Mayor of the biggest city in the country Sadiq Khan very much considers himself an interested party in the judicial review.

“He will be setting out how and when he intends to take action on air pollution in the coming weeks.”

Direct involvement

ClientEarth’s legal challenge was mounted after revelations claimed that indoor and outdoor air pollution was ‘claiming at least 40,000 UK lives a year’ and evidence revealed that London took just one week to breach its annual pollution limits.

The environmental lawyers believe the Government is in breach of its legal duty to produce new air quality plans to bring air pollution below illegal levels in the “shortest possible time”, despite being issued a court order. According to ClientEarth, Government plans released in December last year would still fail to bring the UK within legal air pollution limits until at least 2025.

ClientEarth’s chief executive James Thornton welcomed Khan’s support. He said: “We’re pleased that the new Mayor considers our legal challenge important in holding the UK government to account. Sadiq Khan’s announcement that he will be directly involved in the case is a good sign that he is committed to dealing with London’s air pollution crisis.

“This is an excellent opportunity for him to show leadership by setting out what action he will take and what support he will need from central government in order to achieve legal limits in London.”

‘Clean energy revolution’

The new London Mayor has already pledged to make air quality in the capital one of his top green priorities. In his campaign manifesto, Khan vowed to introduce a Clean Bus Corridors scheme which would prioritise new, clean buses for those services that run on the most polluted roads in the city. In addition, the Labour MP has promised to press the Government for an introduction of a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to support those who wish to change to a greener car.

Khan has also insisted that delivering electric vehicle charging infrastructure in partnership with the private sector will be necessary for a major expansion in the use of electric vehicles. He has set a provisional target of only buying clean electric or hydrogen buses from 2020, and suggested that reinvigorated waste reduction efforts to increase the amount London recycles would allegedly get the capital back on track with hitting a 65% recycling target by 2030.

London Mayor: What YOU have to say…

Following Sadiq Khan’s entry to City Hall, we’re asking edie readers their views on the Mayor’s ability to live up to his promise to be the “greenest Mayor ever”. There is still time to voice your own opinion – will Khan realise his ambition to spark a “clean energy revolution”? Or will he fail to deliver on his bold list of green manifesto pledges?

Cast your vote in our readers’ poll and let us know your thoughts about this in the comments section below.

George Ogleby

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