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ENVIRONMENTAL lawyers told the High Court today that the government’s plans to tackle air pollution are “flawed” because they fall short of what is needed.
ClientEarth sought a judicial review of the plans by the governments of England and Wales in response to their plans to reduce the currently illegal levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere.
The charity, which has won two previous cases against ministers over their failure to meet legal limits for the pollutant, says the latest proposals row back on an earlier promise to order five cities to introduce clean air zones by 2020.
It also challenges the lack of any requirements for action to bring down air pollution as quickly as possible on the part of 45 English and Welsh local authorities.
Following previous court orders, ministers revealed plans in July for meeting EU limits for pollution, much of which comes from diesel vehicles.
The measures included £255 million to help councils find ways to improve air quality from improving public transport and changing road layouts to creating charging zones for polluting vehicles.
The government was ordered to produce the latest plans after ClientEarth’s successful case in 2016, when the courts ruled that earlier proposals were insufficient to meet EU pollution limits, which the UK has breached since the rules came into effect in 2010.
Chief executive James Thornton said: “Even now, eight years after the original deadline for compliance, 37 out of 43 zones across the UK remain in breach of legal air pollution limits.”
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said it could not comment on ongoing legal proceedings but mentioned a £3 billion plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions.
It also noted that sales of new diesel and petrol cars will end by 2040.
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