A landmark case against the Government over a failure to meet EU air pollution limits in West Yorkshire will be heard tomorrow. (Mar 7)
Environmental campaign group ClientEarth’s appeal case is at the Supreme Court.
The group say that levels of nitrogen dioxide, a chemical which causes air pollution, are at more than twice the legal limit on some of the busiest roads in Leeds. According to latest figures, 121km of road in the city exceeds the limit.
And health data shows that 5.5 per cent of adult deaths in Leeds are linked to air pollution.
James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “Air pollution is over twice the legal limit in Leeds. It is an invisible killer that causes heart attacks and strokes, stops children’s lungs from growing properly, and is linked to low birth weight in newborns.
“For too long, government has got away with failing to protect the public’s health from air pollution, and we have the right to take them to court to demand action.
“Our Government are lobbying in Brussels to try to weaken current air quality laws instead of coming up with an ambitious new plan to clean up the dirty diesel vehicles which are choking our towns and cities.”
The case involves 16 regions of the country, including West Yorkshire and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the organisation of activist environmental lawyers says legal limits on air pollution will not be met until up to 15 years after a 2010 deadline.
It originally went to court in December 2011 but the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled any action to force the Government to submit a new strategy for improving air quality would have to be carried out by the European Commission.
The Supreme Court hears cases “of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population”.
Weather forecaster and Healthy Air Campaign Ambassador Clare Nasir said: “It is outrageous that the Government needs to be dragged through the courts to get them to tackle this issue. Air pollution is so bad in some of our cities that it is affecting the lung capacity of our children and causing heart attacks and strokes.”
However the Government said most of the country met limits.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “The UK’s air quality plans on nitrogen dioxide are being challenged by ClientEarth in the Supreme Court, having been upheld in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
“Our air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and most of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants. Our plans for nitrogen dioxide set out all the important work being done to meet EU standards in the shortest possible time.”