EU court rules against UK government on air pollution

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has today ruled that the UK government must take urgent action over its failure to tackle air pollution.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has today ruled that the UK government must take urgent action over its failure to tackle air pollution.

In response to action brought by Client Earth, the ECJ’s first ever ruling on the effect of the Air Quality Directive will determine what action the UK courts now take against the government.

The Directive requires member states which have failed to meet air quality limits to draw up plans to achieve them in the “shortest time possible”.

However, UK government plans will not meet nitrogen dioxide limits until after 2030 – 20 years after the original deadline. Today’s ruling states that the UK Supreme Court must now take action to enforce air quality limits, and could pave the way for a series of legal challenges across Europe in cases where governments are failing to protect people from air pollution.

Diesel fumes are the main source of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a harmful gas linked with heart attacks and asthma. Earlier this year Oxford Street was declared the worst place in the world for nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Responding to the ruling by the European Court of Justice against the UK government on air pollution, Labour’s shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle MP said:

“This European Court of Justice judgement is a damning indictment of the Tory-led government’s total failure to tackle the UK’s air pollution.

“Air pollution is a serious public health issue facing our towns and cities, tens of thousands of lives are lost each year and yet David Cameron’s government has done nothing to solve the problem. The European Court of Justice has now demanded that the UK take urgent action to address dangerous levels of air pollution.

“The government should now back Labour’s plans to deliver a national framework for low emission zones to enable local authorities to encourage cleaner, greener, less polluting vehicles to tackle this problem.”

Last week Labour MP John McDonnell sent a letter to the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee calling for an Public Inquiry into air pollution in the UK.

The letter, signed by 25 MP’s and peers, was drafted by the Campaign for an Air Pollution Public Inquiry and expressed growing concern at the insufficient action from government and other agencies on this issue. It also calls for meaningful action to be taken to stop the thousands of deaths from air pollution each year.

John McDonnell MP today said:

“In support of the Campaign for an air pollution public inquiry we are calling for urgent action from the government in tackling the horrendous levels of air pollution in the UK. As is consistently shown from expert reports and campaigning groups, the dangerous levels of pollution in this country is having disastrous consequences for our communities.

“Despite the UK having one of the worst records of any European country for exceeding EU air pollution limits our government has failed to take meaningful action. I support petitioners in calling for an inquiry in order to expose and overcome the obstacles which have been preventing action on this critical issue and to outline what needs to be done.”

Dave Davies of the Campaign for an Air Pollution Public Inquiry said:

“It is of serious concern that the government and some leading politicians , including the mayor of London have chosen to ignore the situation or worse still make claims that they have taken steps to reduce pollution , when in fact the air quality measurements clearly show that there has been no improvement in air quality and in fact the emissions per vehicle has actually got worse. It was recently confirmed by leading scientists that Oxford street is one of the most polluted streets in the world. Thousands of deaths continue each year because of the current and previous failed air quality strategies.”

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