Nov 19 2014

European Court of Justice rules Government must take urgent action to reduce pollution

Campaign for Air Pollution Public Inquiry

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 groundbreaking 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



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.

Members of both Houses of Parliament call for an urgent public inquiry into air pollution in the UK


Last week John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington 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 expressing growing concern at the insufficient action from Government and other agencies on this issue and calls for meaningful action to be taken to stop the thousands of deaths from air pollution each year.


The Government has failed to implement many of the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee’s previous report of 2011 which urged government to take immediate action. Numerous expert studies including a recent World Health Organisation Report have confirmed thousands of people throughout the UK are dying from Air Pollution.


The letter expresses concern that Government and Local Authorities have failed to implement effective Air Quality Strategies and that the EU will be forced to consider what action is to be taken for breaches of air pollution standards by the UK.



John McDonnell MP has 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:


’The Campaign for Air Pollution Public Inquiry is extremely pleased with the significant number of  MPs and Members of the House of Lords who are supporting the call for an urgent Public Inquiry into the thousands of deaths from air pollution so that the cause can be established and proper action taken to reduce pollution. 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.

Supporters are signing an  ePetition – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63333’’