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UK government ordered to take ‘immediate action’ on air pollution



The UK government today appeared in Supreme Court and has been ordered to deliver plans to cut illegal levels of air pollution by the end of the year.

Areas of the UK are breaching EU limits for nitrogen. Under previous plans several areas would still be over the limit by 2030, well after the EU deadline. The Supreme Court Justices were unanimous in their decision, stating that the new government, following the general election on May 7, “should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue”.

The ruling was originally brought forward by ClientEarth and follows a five-year legal battle. The organisation argues that the ruling will save thousands of lives by forcing the government to urgently clean up pollution from diesel vehicles.

Air pollution kills tens of thousands of people in this country every year. We brought our case because we have a right to breathe clean air and today the Supreme Court has upheld that right,” said ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews.

“This ruling will benefit everyone’s health but particularly children, older people and those with existing health conditions like asthma and heart and lung disease.”

He added that ahead of next week’s general election political parties should now make a clear commitment to policies that will deliver cleaner air.

In response to the decision, Greenpeace UK policy director Doug Parr commented, “The public want our politicians to talk more about environmental issues during this election campaign.

“The judgement today shows why – systematic failure on air pollution means we need better plans to stop fuel burning in city centres from impacting our health and wellbeing. A UN report says that air pollution costs nearly 10% of European GDP, and in comparison the economic discussions in the election campaign have been concerning themselves with minor economic details whilst this vast un-discussed failure affects millions of UK residents.”

Photo: Riley Kaminer via Flickr

Further reading:

UK government faces Supreme Court over air pollution

Study: air pollution affects heart beat

EU air pollution and recycling laws could be scrapped

Study: climate change will worsen air pollution

Warmer weather leads to rise in air pollution