Supreme Court rules UK government is breaching pollution laws

The UK will need to improve its plans for tackling air pollution after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the government has breached laws that protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.

The UK will need to improve its plans for tackling air pollution after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the government has breached laws that protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.

The ruling paves the way for the European Commission to take legal action against the UK.

The case, brought by ClientEarth, concerns 16 cities and regions (including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow) which government plans show will suffer from illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas, until as late as 2020 or 2025.

Five judges ruled that Defra – the government department responsible for policy and regulations on environmental, food and rural issues – has breached the EU’s Air Quality Directive¬†because its plans will fail to ensure the country meets legal EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels by 2015.

The Supreme Court confirmed that because the government is in breach of the EU Air Quality Directive, the way is now open for “immediate enforcement action at national or European level”.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton called it a “historic ruling” which “marks a turning point in the fight for clean air”.

“Faced with court action on two fronts, he must now come up with an ambitious plan to protect people from carcinogenic diesel fumes. Until now, his only policy has been lobbying in Europe to try and weaken air pollution laws,” he said.

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