High Court Orders UK Government To Explain Delay In Implementing Clean Air Rules

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Last week, a poll commissioned by the Labour Party found that 40 million people in the UK live in areas where the air is unhealthy to breathe, largely because of pollution from diesel-powered vehicles. We know that polls often reflect what the people paying for the poll want them to but still, 40 million is a lot of people. Back in November, the highest court in the UK found the government’s proposed clean air rules were legally deficient. It ordered the government to draw up a new plan and present it to the court by 4 pm, April 24.

diesel emissions violate clean air rules in UKThe case was originally brought to court by ClientEarth, which argued the government plan was based on diesel emissions testing conducted in laboratories rather than real world measurements. The difference between the two is what landed Volkswagen in serious legal trouble in the fall of 2015.

Then last week, Prime Minister Theresa May threw a monkey wrench into the works when she suddenly called for elections in June. That prompted the government to tell the court it could not comply with the deadline because revealing its clean air plans now would be improper during an election campaign.

Nonsense, sniffed James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth. “This is a public health issue and not a political issue. Urgent action is required to protect people’s health from the illegal and poisonous air that we are forced to breathe in the UK. This is a matter for the court to decide once the government has made its arguments because it is the government which has not met, and instead seeks to extend, the court’s deadline for the clean air plan, to clean up our air.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is frankly outrageous that the government thinks it can continue to bury its head in the sand about the serious health impacts of air quality in London and across the country. The prime minister has once again missed this golden opportunity to show real leadership in tackling and improving the air we breathe, which should have been done well before the pre-election period.” The high court has announced it will hold a hearing on the matter on Thursday.

The scale of the air pollution crisis was illustrated by a joint investigation by The Guardian and Greenpeace this month. That survey showed that hundreds of thousands of children were being educated within 150 meters of roadways with levels of nitrogen dioxide from diesel traffic that exceeded legal limits. Research consistently shows that exposure to traffic fumes is harmful to children and adults. Children are more vulnerable because their lungs are still developing and exposure to nitrogen dioxide reduces lung growth, causes long-term ill health and can result in premature death, says The Guardian.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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