ClientEarth demands urgent clarification on UK government’s air quality plans

ClientEarth has written to the UK government asking for urgent answers over disturbing holes in court-ordered plans to clean up illegal levels of air pollution.

The letter, which gives ministers 14 days to respond, highlights major questions which the government’s plans leave unanswered. The plans, which were released on 26 July, pass responsibility to 23 local councils in England to find a solution to the air pollution crisis, but offer little detail on how air quality will be improved in the rest of England.

In the letter, ClientEarth asks for immediate clarification about the guidance given to local authorities on how to evaluate the best ways of bringing air pollution down as soon as possible as well as how ministers will ensure that air quality limits are met across England. 

The environmental law organisation also calls for clarity on how the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will assess plans from the 23 local authorities and how quickly this will be done.

ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop, said: “We were extremely disappointed with the plans when they came out. They pass the buck to local authorities and leave some majors questions about process and funding. We are worried that ministers may be running away from their responsibility to ensure people across the UK are not breathing illegal levels of air pollution every day. We hope that the government’s answers will finally show a resolve to urgently tackle the UK’s toxic air. Up to now, that has been sadly lacking.”

ClientEarth is also waiting for urgent clarification from the Scottish and Welsh governments as to their and Defra’s plans to clean up illegal levels of air pollution in the devolved nations.

The plans released by the government on 26 July were the result of ClientEarth’s second successful court case against ministers to clean up illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution in the UK. There are illegal levels of NO2 in 37 out of 43 zones in the UK. 

In areas with illegal levels of NO2, the main culprit is diesel engines. ClientEarth has called for a national network of clean air zones, which would keep the most polluting vehicles away from the most polluted areas of our towns and cities. 

This should be accompanied by a diesel scrappage scheme say ClientEarth, as well as other incentives to help people move to cleaner forms of transport.

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