Supreme Court to decide whether ministers need to produce a new plan to tackle poor air quality
New plans to tackle air pollution may have to be rushed through if the UK Supreme Court rules the current strategy is ineffective.
In a landmark case, judges will today hear the culmination of a four year legal battle between the UK and EU courts over the country’s poor air quality, which has been blamed for 29,000 deaths a year.
Londoners suffered last week with some of the worst levels of air pollution seen in recent years. Yet the government has admitted the capital, along with the West Midlands and West Yorkshire, is unlikely to meet EU safe levels for air quality until after 2030 – two decades after the original EU deadline.
While ministers argued they should have more time to draw up plans to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels, the European Court of Justice last year ruled it should have proposals in place during 2015 so the time it takes to meet the legal requirements “is as short as possible”.
Air pollution campaigners hope the Supreme Court will order ministers to come up with a new plan to deliver urgent cuts to current levels of air pollution. The Supreme Court could also rule the Government must bring forward the date by which its targets have to be met.
ClientEarth, which brought the orginal case at the European Court of Justice, has called for the most polluting diesel vehicles, the main source of nitrogen dioxide pollution, to be removed from city centres.
However, campaign groups have insisted any new plan must include a host of measures to tackle air pollution in urban centres.
“The government should be forced to come up with an urgent action plan to stop people choking on dirty air and end this national disgrace,” said Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “It’s time to tackle the main cause of this pollution, which is too much dirty traffic, by encouraging cleaner vehicles and getting more people on to bikes, buses, trains.”
The government has repeatedly argued it is already delivering an ambitious package of air quality measures and is working to meet the European standards.