Government loses second court case over air pollution plans

Posted On: 
2nd November 2016

The Government has agreed to revise its air pollution plans after losing a second court case in the space of 18 months over the issue.

Pollution levels in London have consistently breached EU limits

A High Court judge ruled in favour of environmental group ClientEarth, who argued that ministers were not doing enough to meet the UK's legal obligations to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

It is the second such victory for ClientEarth who won a similar case in the Supreme Court in 2015. 

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Today's case ruled that the plan drawn up following the 2015 case also fails to meet the Government's legal commitments.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs said the Government accepted the ruling and would consider its next steps.

“Our plans have always followed the best available evidence - we have always been clear that we are ready to update them if necessary and have been at the forefront of action in Europe to secure more accurate, real-world emissions testing for diesel cars," the spokesman said.


Air pollution accounts for tens of thousands of deaths annually, with the UK breaking EU rules on legal limits in every year since 2010.

In April the Environment Committee described the issue as a "public health crisis" and recommended a range of measures, including giving cities more powers to impose charges on the most polluting vehicles.

Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell said the ruling was an indictment of ministers' "failure to protect British people from the health dangers of the UKs polluted air".

Levels of nitrogen dioxide are one of the major issues cited by opponents of a third runway at Heathrow.

While campaigners claim there is no way the airport can keep within its clean air obligations, a study from the University of Cambridge last month suggested there would be only a "marginal" increase in NOX levels if a third runway is built.