Environmental law firm ClientEarth have dragged the government back to court over its “moral and legal failure” to tackle air pollution in the UK. Defra announced it would introduce clean air zones in major cities in the UK, but Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow have fallen short of requirement to have them.
Air pollution causes 50,000 early deaths and £27.5bn in costs every year. Failure to address the issue nationally is nothing short of ridiculous.
It is the second time ClientEarth has sued the government over air pollution, which has broken EU legal limits since 2010 in many parts of the country. ClientEarth won in the supreme court in 2015 and ministers were ordered to draw up an action plan, but ClientEarth argues even the new plan is illegal and has gone back to court. Government lawyers will put forward their defence on Wednesday, with the judgment expected in the following weeks or months. ClientEarth’s lawyers have used government documents released as part of the legal process to bolster their arguments. One document shows the environment and transport departments wanted diesel cars, a major source of pollution, included the government’s proposed Clean Air Zones. But the Treasury blocked the move, with officials arguing it “would be politically very difficult, especially given the impacts on motorists”.