The Welsh Government has agreed to take action to tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the country at a hearing at the High Court today (Thursday, January 25).
The case is part of the third judicial review brought by Client Earth against the UK Government over its failure to come up with an adequate plan to improve air quality to comply with EU pollution levels.
In this latest case, Client Earth accused the Welsh Government of failing to produce any firm plans to improve air quality. However, no sooner had proceedings in in the High Court against both the Welsh and UK Governments got underway this morning, barrister for the Welsh Government, Jonathan Moffett QC, conceded and said ministers would now work with Client Earth to agree a legally-binding ‘consent order’.
Speaking outside the High Court, Client Earth CEO James Thornton said: “Welsh ministers have admitted in court that their inaction on air pollution was unlawful. It’s incredibly disappointing that we had to drag them to court to get them to admit this and to commit to action to stop people in Wales having to breathe dirty air.
“People across Wales have been breathing illegal levels of air pollution for years and we hope the Welsh Government will waste no time now in committing to strong and decisive action to cleaning it up.”
Data, published by the Royal College of Physicians in October 2017, showed that Cardiff, Swansea, Port Talbot, Newport, Chepstow and Wrexham were in breach of World Health Organisation air pollution guidelines.
Although it is the responsibility of the UK Government to ensure all parts of the UK are compliant with EU legislation, air pollution is also a devolved matter with each country expected to produce their own plan to tackle the issue.
The UK Government’s air quality plan, which was plan published in July, included a section on Wales. It mentioned the launch of a consultation over a proposal for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) framework and said further action would be required where CAZs are not appropriate, such as rural areas.
Client Earth hopes the courts will now declare the UK Government’s air quality plan unlawful and order the UK Government to publish additional air quality measures.
The case against the UK Government continues.