EU Court Rules Against UK For Failure to Tackle Air Pollution


A landmark judgment by the European Court of Justice compels the UK Government to act as soon as possible to reduce air pollution in British cities, writes Keith Taylor - and a good thing too for our health, safety and wellbeing. But it's not just the UK that benefits: every EU country must also comply with the ruling.

The European Court of Justice delivered a landmark verdict today by ruling in favour of ClientEarth's case against the UK Government for its failure to tackle air pollution.

This ground-breaking ruling, the first ever on the effect of the EU's Air Quality Directive, puts the UK Government in "ongoing breach" of UK law.

And it means that the UK Supreme Court will be compelled to take action against the Government, with the threat of huge fines being handed out further down the line if the breach continues.

The ruling has also paved the way for future legal actions to enforce other EU targets on emissions and energy efficiency.

How did the Government get in such a mess?

The EU's Air Quality Directive sets legal limits on air quality which member states are required to meet within a certain time frame.

Our current government is failing spectacularly to meet these targets: it has drawn up plans which show it will not meet nitrogen dioxide limits until after 2030 - 20 years after the original deadline!

This prompted environmental lawyers at ClientEarth to take our Government to court. This is embarrassing for the Government to say the least - and it's deeply concerning that it takes an EU Court ruling for them to start taking the issue of air pollution seriously.

ClientEarth got it right when they said: "We have a legal right to breathe clean air. When the government fails in its duty to uphold that, the courts must step in.

"If the government were allowed to stick with current proposals for tackling pollution, a child born today in London, Birmingham or Leeds would have to wait until after their 16th birthday before they can breathe air that meets legal limits.

"ClientEarth does not believe this is acceptable, which is why we have challenged the government through the courts for the past five years to tackle the problem urgently. The longer government is allowed to delay, the more people will die or be made seriously ill by air pollution."

In their judgment, the panel of European judges said the Government should have planned to secure compliance with the Directive by January 2015 - 15 years earlier than it intended.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, The Ecologist.

Gavel image via Shutterstock.