UK government ordered to take action on air quality

Air pollution in London by Rhys Herbert

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the UK government must deliver new plans to address illegal levels of air pollution in Britain by the end of the year.

The ruling means the Government must start work on a comprehensive plan to meet pollution limits as soon as possible. Among the measures that it must consider are low emission zones, congestion charging and other economic incentives.

London Cycling Campaign believes everyone should have the right to clean air, so we’re delighted by the ruling. In London, an equivalent of 4,300 deaths in London is attributed to air quality related illness. The creation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone is welcome, but won’t take effect until 2020, and doesn’t go far enough, meaning it won't result in EU quality targets being met across London. Reducing emissions leads to a more inviting environment for cycling – which in turn is good news for air quality. We look forward to swift action by the next government to tackle our abysmal record on air pollution.

Handing down the judgement on behalf of the five Justices who heard the case, Lord Carnwath said on Wednesday morning: “The new government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue." Footage of the judgement summary can be watched below.

The ruling is the culmination of a five year legal battle fought by ClientEarth for the right of British people to breathe clean air, and will save thousands of lives a year by forcing the Government to urgently clean up pollution from diesel vehicles, the main source of the illegal levels of nitrogen nioxide found in many of the UK’s towns and cities.

ClientEarth runs the Healthy Air campaign, of which the London Cycling Campaign is proud to be a partner.