UK’s ‘faulty projections could mean dirty air for decades’

An environmental law group has alleged the UK Government’s predicted compliance date for clean air laws could be years out as its projections are based on “fantasy data”. ClientEarth is […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

An environmental law group has alleged the UK Government’s predicted compliance date for clean air laws could be years out as its projections are based on “fantasy data”.

ClientEarth is challenging the government to “come clean” on whether it has rerun its projections for air pollution in light of its findings that the newest diesel cars are pumping out six times more dangerous pollutants on average when tested on the road rather than the lab.

The news follows the organisation’s announcement to sue the government for a second time for breaching EU air quality rules.

It submitted its response yesterday to the legal arguments for the upcoming court case and sent an Environmental Information Request to Defra, seeking the methods used to calculate how quickly its proposed air quality plan will bring the UK into line with EU standards.

Last year the government predicted most areas of the country will be compliant with legal air pollution limits by 2020, with London becoming compliant by 2025.

However the environmental lawyers believe more towns and cities will still be breaching air pollution limits in 2020.

ClientEarth Lawyer Alan Andrews said: “We have submitted an information request to see if the government has had a reality check and rerun their projections. If it has, this will show the need for a much more ambitious and comprehensive plan to tackle air pollution across the country, not just in a handful of cities.

“We want the new government to immediately commit to introducing a national network of ‘clean air zones’ which phase out the use of diesel in our most polluted towns and cities. This needs to be backed by a range of measures to make sure the government and industry support the phase out financially and the ordinary motorist isn’t left with a huge bill.”

Defra said it cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings but added: “Our plans clearly set out how we will improve the UK’s air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones, which alongside national action and continued investment in clean technologies, will create cleaner, healthier air for all.

“We have always been open about the difference between real world and laboratory testing for diesel cars and our plans, based on the best available and most reliable data, take this into account.”

Last year ClientEarth won its case for clean air against the government when the UK Supreme Court ordered ministers to come up with plans to bring air pollution within legal limits as soon as possible.