Responding to news that the government has been ordered back to the high court to explain its last-minute bid to delay publication of the UK’s clean air plan, Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, said:
“I welcome the fact the High Court has called in the government to account for their shocking disregard of the UK’s legal and moral obligation to take action on air pollution. This is a public health issue, not a political one and it is outrageous the Tories are using the general election as an excuse to put the brakes on taking action.
“Whatever government is elected on 8th June, action is urgently needed. There can be no excuses for delay while hundreds of thousands of children are educated within 150 metres of toxic diesel fumes and almost two thirds of the population live in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution exceed legal limits. Our air quality crisis is linked to more than 2,000 needless deaths across the South West and almost 6% of all deaths in Bristol every year.
“That it is the European Commission and ClientEarth having to drag the government through the courts to account for a public health crisis is a shameful indictment of the Conservatives’ irresponsible and deadly apathy. The government readily acknowledges that any positive air quality action it has been forced to take has been driven by EU law. But the Prime Minister’s plans for an extreme Brexit puts those vital EU safeguards at risk.”
Environmental lawyers Client Earth won a High Court challenge against the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom last November over her failure to take measures that would bring the UK into compliance with EU air quality laws. The court set the Minister a deadline of 24th April to produce a new plan. The European Commission also sent a ‘final warning’ to the UK in February over its failure to address repeated breaches of legal air pollution limits in 16 areas of the country.