Press Release: Campaign for Air Pollution Public Inquiry

John Mcdonnell MP has been campaigning for an air pollution public enquiry for some time now, and is very pleased with the European Court of Justice decision.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has today ruled that the UK government must take urgent action over its failure to tackle air pollution. Around 29,000 people die early in the UK each year as a result of air pollution -; more than traffic accidents and passive smoking combined. The action was bought against the UK Government by Client Earth.

This landmark ruling, the ECJ’s first ever on the effect of the Air Quality Directive, will determine what action the UK courts take against the government. It will also set a ground-breaking legal precedent in EU law which could pave the way for a series of legal challenges across Europe where governments are failing to protect people from air pollution.

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.

Diesel fumes are the main source of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a harmful gas linked with heart attacks and asthma.

The Ruling can be seen here and states that the UK Supreme Court must take action to enforce air quality limits ruling ‘where a Member State has not complied with the limit values and has not applied for a postponement of the deadline in accordance with the prescribed conditions, it is for the competent national court, should a case be brought before it, to take, with regard to the national authority, any necessary measure, such as an order in the appropriate terms, so that the authority establishes the plan required by the directive to ensure, in particular, that the period during which the limit values are exceeded is as short as possible.’

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