New legal challenge mounted against Defra for EU air quality breach

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Law firm ClientEarth is continuing its bid to hold the government to account for failing to tackle air quality.

JEREMY Corbyn used Prime Minister’s Questions on 16 March to raise the issue of air pollution, and the fact that Britain is in breach of international law. Following the judgement secured in the Supreme Court in April 2015, ordering Defra to draw up new plans detailing how it will achieve compliance, following a successful action by law firm ClientEarth, the latest update appears to be that ClientEarth believes the government is in breach of that order, having failed to take appropriate action.


ClientEarth says the government’s current plans, released on 17 December 2015, wouldn’t bring the UK within legal air pollution limits until 2025 – while the original, legally binding deadline passed in 2010. The papers lodged with the High Court on 18 March ask judges to strike down those plans, order new ones and intervene to make sure the government acts.

Environmental monitoring expert Air Monitors was on hand outside the High Court while Client Earth launched its new legal challenge, monitoring the air quality on the pavement outside. The data recorded show NO2 levels between two and three times the EU annual mean limit for this gas.

AQMesh is a small, lightweight, battery-powered air quality monitor that transmits readings to a dedicated website. “We were able to show the data to the ClientEarth staff, the demonstrators and the gathered media,” said Stephen Hoskin from Air Monitors. “It was interesting to note that NO2 levels inside a roadside café were relatively low, but as soon as we took the monitor outside, the pollution levels increased markedly.”

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