UK will miss air pollution deadline by over 20 years
ClientEarth’s case against the UK government was heard at the Court of Justice of the European Union on Thursday, just as the Government snuck out the revelation that they wouldn’t meet legal air pollution limits until after 2030.
Until now, the government had maintained it would meet nitrogen dioxide limits, which should have been met in 2010, by 2025 in London and by 2020 in 15 other UK zones.
Strangely, the legal team for the UK Government even tried to suppress this information using rules on legal privilege, AFTER it had been published on Defra’s own website!
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), emitted mainly by diesel vehicles, is devastating for public health, causing respiratory and heart problems, and responsible for thousands of early deaths. In the 20 years or more that Greater London, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands will have dangerous levels of NO2, tens of thousands of people will die due to exposure.
While the Government is busy planning for twenty more years of lethal, illegal air pollution, we know that action needs to be taken now. Bold steps such as:
- A national network of low emission zones,
- Retrofitting the worst polluting vehicles,
- And encouraging a shift from motor traffic to walking, cycling and public transport
would make an immediate and huge difference to reducing air pollution.
Last year, the UK Supreme Court declared that the UK Government is breaching its legal duty to achieve limits for nitrogen dioxide. It then asked the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) to rule on what action it can ask the UK Government to take. This is what Thursday’s hearing was about. The CJEU’s judgment is expected before the end of 2014. It will be binding on the UK courts and the national courts in all 28 EU member states.
In the meantime, we’ll be working to make sure all our politicians know of the urgent need for action on air pollution, and we need your help. Please sign up to the campaign, and we’ll let you know about the different ways you can get involved.