The Welsh Government were in the High Court on Thursday, January 25th for a hearing brought to light by ClientEarth to tackle illegal levels of air pollution in the country and have agreed action needs to be taken.
This case is the third in which ClientEarth have put forward to the UK Government over its persistent failure to comply with an adequate plan to improve air quality to comply with EU pollution levels.
Speaking outside the High Court, Client Earth CEO James Thornton said: “Welsh ministers have admitted in court that their inaction on air pollution was unlawful. It’s incredibly disappointing that we had to drag them to court to get them to admit this and to commit to action to stop people in Wales having to breathe dirty air.
“People across Wales have been breathing illegal levels of air pollution for years and we hope the Welsh Government will waste no time now in committing to strong and decisive action to cleaning it up.”
Data, published by the Royal College of Physicians in October 2017, showed that Cardiff, Swansea, Port Talbot, Newport, Chepstow and Wrexham were in breach of World Health Organisation air pollution guidelines.
Despite previous rulings, the Government’s plans still do not include measures which would bring the UK into compliance with air pollution laws “as soon as possible”, compelling ClientEarth to bring a further judicial review.
Although it is the responsibility of the UK Government to ensure all parts of the UK are compliant with EU legislation, air pollution is also a devolved matter with each country expected to produce their own plan to tackle the issue.
The latest plan for the country fails to provide for any measures to clean up air pollution in 45 Local Authority areas in England that have illegal levels of pollution. It also backtracks on a previous commitment to mandate charging Clean Air Zones in five towns and cities outside of London: Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.
The UK Government’s air quality plan, which was published in July, included a section on Wales. It mentioned the launch of a consultation over a proposal for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) framework and said further action would be required where CAZs are not appropriate, such as rural areas.