ClientEarth warns government over legal action

Environmental law campaign group ClientEarth has written to the government warning that it may launch a further legal challenge against plans to tackle air pollution.

The group had previously led two successful legal campaigns against the government over its air quality plans, which had resulted in a renewed plan having been put forward in July (see airqualitynews.com story).

ClientEarth’s Alan Andrews

The latest UK Plan for tackling roadside NO2 concentrations identifies more than 20 local authority areas which are in breach of the legal limits and directs them to produce a plan to address the problem by spring 2018.

But, in a letter to government this week, ClientEarth claimed that around 45 local authorities are not being required to take action to achieve air quality standards, despite being forecast to breach air pollution limits in future.

The letter also claimed that the government has made a “lack of progress” on policies such as changes to the tax system to favour cleaner vehicles, introducing a targeted diesel scrappage scheme and setting up a “clean air fund” to help local authorities tackle pollution.

AQMAs

ClientEarth has also pointed to figures suggesting that the number of air quality management areas (AQMAs) – areas where local authorities have measured and have put in place measures to tackle dangerous levels of air pollution – which it claims suggest a failure to address air quality issues.

According to ClientEarth 278 of 391 local authorities in the UK have Air Quality Management Areas, compared to 258 in 2010.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “These new figures show that this is a national problem that requires a national solution. The latest air quality plan simply passes the buck to local authorities who will have little option but to impose charges on diesel vehicles.

“It is high time that the government kept up its end of the bargain and helped ordinary people and small businesses make the shift away from diesel towards cleaner forms of transport.”

Responding to the comments, a Defra spokesperson said: “We have put in place a £3 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.

“We will also end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040, and next year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will set out further steps to tackle air pollution.

“We now have an opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit and improve environmental standards as we leave the EU.”