Air Quality NOx: UK Supreme Court Decision

On 29th April, the UK Supreme Court handed down its judgement in the ClientEarth v DEFRA (UK Government) case. I posted about this case December last.

These proceedings arose out of the admitted and continuing failure by the UK since 2010 to secure compliance in certain zones with the limits for nitrogen dioxide levels set out by European law, under Directive 2008/50/EC. The Supreme Court in its judgement of 1st May 2013 had declared the UK to be in breach of article 13 (NOx limit values) and had referred certain questions concerning articles 13, 22 and 23 of the Directive to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The CJEU had answered those questions in a judgement dated 14 November 2014 (Case C-404/13). At the same time, the European Court had ruled the UK Government must have a plan to achieve the air quality limits ‘as soon as possible’. My post about this is also in the December archive.

In its judgement of 29th April 2015, the UK Supreme Court unanimously orders that the government must submit new air quality plans to the European Commission no later than 31 December 2015. 

Link to Supreme Court Decision press summary.

Link to Supreme Court Decision.

In 2011 the UK Government said a number of areas, including London, would be unable to comply by 2015 (the deadline in the EU Directive) and instead EU law allowed it to ‘comply as soon as possible’. Indeed, air quality plans would continue the breach at least until 2030. This approach is now struck down by the Supreme Court.

The country goes to the polls on Thursday May 7 to elect a new government.

Some reaction from existing politicians and campaigners is set out in the Air Quality News article here.

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