European court rules against UK government on Birmingham air quality

Government has “taken insufficient action” to improve air quality.

The European Court of Justice has today said UK Government has taken insufficient action to meet EU Air Quality Directives and to protect UK citizens from the harmful effects of air pollution. Their ruling establishes that national courts can take action to force governments to comply when they breach air quality limits. The case was brought by environmental lawyers Client Earth.

The UK government can now be ordered by national courts to draw up a plan to meet EU nitrogen dioxide limit values as soon as possible. The UK is currently in breach of EU limits for nitrogen dioxide in 38 out of 43 air quality zones, and for 16 of those including Birmingham, the UK government has no plan in place for how or when it will meet them.

Environmental campaigners are applauding the ruling, stating that the government must now do a lot more to tackle the problem of air pollution. Birmingham Friends of the Earth, who last week handed in their petition for Birmingham City Council to invest more in walking and cycling to reduce air pollution, say that the City Council must also do much more to tackle the issue.

Birmingham FoE spokesperson Julien Pritchard said: “This damning ruling will force the Government to take the urgent steps needed clean up Britain’s filthy air, and help prevent many of the tens of thousands premature deaths every year caused by pollution. With Birmingham one of the cities at the centre of this case, and air pollution contributing to over 500 premature deaths a year in city, this ruling should also act as a wake-up call for Birmingham City Council to take action to clean up its own back yard.”

“Birmingham City Council could start by making a cast-iron commitment to investing £10 per person per year in walking and cycling for at least ten years. A demand which has been called for by numerous faith and community groups across the city.”