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Client Earth fails in latest air quality challenge to the Government

Car's exhaust pipe

The High Court has ruled that there is “nothing unlawful” in the Government’s draft air quality plan.  

Environmental lawyers Client Earth had brought the case after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published its plans in May.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Garnham said that there was nothing unlawful about the Government’s draft plans, but suggested that final plans could well be open to legal challenge if they do not deal with some of the concerns laid out by Client Earth.

Charging drivers of certain vehicles to enter polluted areas of towns and cities, so–called Clean Air Zones (CAZs), is the most effective way to quickly bring down air pollution, according to Government analysis.

However, the draft plan wants local authorities to look find alternatives to charging drivers.

Client Earth said the High Court made it clear that any alternative measures would have to be equally or more effective than a charging CAZ in meeting the air quality limits and reducing people’s exposure to pollution.

James Thornton, CEO of Client Earth, said it was a clear signal to ministers that they must improve on their draft plans to reduce air pollution as soon as possible.

He continued: “In our view, the judge made it very clear that the Government must meet very specific criteria in order to avoid any future legal challenge. We feel this was a clear shot across the government’s bows.”

The Government’s final plans to reduce air pollution in the UK are due on July 31. 

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