The Government has been ordered to act immediately to comply with European air pollution limits. A panel of five judges unanimously ruled that the Government must submit a new air quality plan to the European Commission by the end of the year.
This decision could lead to tight controls on diesel vehicles in Britain’s largest cities.
The case was brought against the Environment Secretary by campaign group ClientEarth.
ClientEarth argued that cities including London, Birmingham and Leeds would not meet EU pollution limits until 2030 – 20 years after the 2010 deadline, and that only enforcement action would remedy “the ongoing breach by the UK of EU law on nitrogen dioxide limits”. They claim air pollution in the UK causes 29,000 early deaths a year; more than obesity and alcohol combined.
Speaking after the verdict, ClientEarth’s environment lawyer Alan Andrews told Sky News: “We are delighted with the verdict that the Supreme Court has made which will save thousands of lives in the UK.
“The next government needs to make air pollution a top priority and they need to come up with a comprehensive plan to tackle pollution from road transport and especially diesel vehicles.”
Mr Andrews said he was “baffled” the issue had not been mentioned by political parties during the election campaign and that a comprehensive plan was required to tackle diesel pollution.
“We think a national network of low-emission zones which keep the most polluted diesel vehicles out of our towns and cities is the best and most effective option,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Work is already under way on revised plans – since February 2014 – to meet EU targets on NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) as soon as possible.”