The UK government is facing a new legal battle as environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have got the court's nod to demand a fresh judicial review of the government's air pollution plans published in December 2015. Campaigners and environmental experts alleged that the government's plans are inadequate and will take too long to meet the European Union's air quality rules.
ClientEarth has named environment secretary Liz Truss as the defendant in the new case, arguing that the government is not fulfilling its commitment of cutting air pollution levels in the "shortest possible time." The organisation alleged that the government is in breach of a 2015 Supreme Court order that required the government to take urgent measures, The Guardian reported.
The country has already missed its 2010 deadline to meet EU air quality rules and the new plan presented by the government would not cut pollution to legal levels until 2025 in some cities.
ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews reportedly claimed that the government's new plans "are woefully inadequate." He confirmed that the court has given them a go-ahead to legally demand that ministers review their policies, which means they will now return to the court to make the government respect their right to breathe clean air.
"The longer they are allowed to dither and delay, the more people will suffer from serious illness or an early death," Andrews was quoted by the UK daily as saying.
On Wednesday, 27 April, the UK government declared air pollution as a "public health emergency" that causes 40,000-50,000 early deaths every year. A report from two Royal Colleges of medicine revealed that the estimated cost of the damage from breathing polluted air is about £20bn ($29.3bn) a year.
Mary Creagh MP, who chairs the environmental audit committee that is currently investigating air pollution, also alleged that the government's measures towards bringing down pollution levels are "not good enough. She added that the government needs to "set out a clear, comprehensive plan to go much further, much faster."
Declining to comment on the "ongoing legal proceedings," a spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs defended the government's plans, saying, "Our plans clearly set out how we will improve the UK's air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones, which alongside national action and continued investment in clean technologies will create cleaner, healthier air for all."