Greens slam lack air pollution failures as Government back in court (again)

Green MEP Keith Taylor has slammed Ministers as the UK Government is dragged back before the High Court for a third time to defend its failure to comply with EU air quality laws.

The case has been brought by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, who also brought the two previous cases. The Conservative government lost both previous cases.  The High Court will hear arguments from both parties on Thursday, 25 January.

The court date comes just days before the Environment Secretary Michael Gove is due to appear before the European Commission in an escalation of action against the UK over persistent breaches of EU air pollution limits.

Keith, a vocal air quality campaigner and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment and Transport Committees, said:

“Here we are again; a Conservative government dragged kicking and screaming to court, but still happier to waste time and taxpayers’ money fighting against taking action on air pollution. Ministers ought to be desperate to try and clean up a toxic crisis that is linked to the needless deaths of 50,000 people in the UK every year. Instead, the Government is content to continue failing to take even the most basic action to uphold its duty to protect British citizens.”

“ClientEarth and the EU both have been forced to step up where the Tory government has repeatedly failed. Although Ministers are back in the High Court, their failure is as much moral as it is legal. The Tories continue to display an extremely concerning attitude of indifference towards safeguarding the health of British citizens and cleaning up a public health crisis that costs them more than £20bn a year.”

Mr Taylor who supports a long-running campaign for a new Clean Air Act also raised fears about the risk Brexit poses to air quality action in the UK, adding:

“The Tories are failing to do the bare minimum, as required by EU laws, that the UK helped set, to improve the quality of the air we all breathe. The bare minimum. Where embraced and enforced, EU air pollution limits are helping to prevent thousands of deaths every year and saving billions of pounds in direct health costs. This government readily acknowledges that it is EU law that has been the driver of positive air quality action in the UK. But the Prime Minister’s plans for an extreme Brexit puts those vital EU safeguards at risk.”

“The government must finally face up to its legal and moral responsibility for tackling Britain’s air quality crisis. Ministers face another humiliating court defeat that could so easily be avoided by making a firm commitment to urgently abide by and fully implement EU air quality laws. The Government must also heed the public’s call to introduce a tough new Clean Air Act that will not only maintain but strengthen these vital EU protections post-Brexit.”