Environmental lawyers challenge Scottish Government on air pollution

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​Environmental NGO ClientEarth have written to the Scottish Government demanding action on the illegal levels of air pollution in the country 

4th August 2017 by Georgina Harris 0 Comments

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have written a letter demanding answers from the Scottish Government about the levels of air pollution in the country.

ClientEarth are a team of activist lawyers working throughout Europe to protect the environment through changing the law. In a letter addressed to first minister Nicola Sturgeon and cabinet secretary for climate change and land reform Roseanna Cunningham, they requested to know the Scottish Government’s plan to tackle the levels of illegal air pollution in Scotland.

On 26th July the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) published an Air Quality Plan to reduce levels of air pollution as soon as possible to bring them into line with EU and domestic legislation.

Environmental issues are widely devolved to Scotland, and the Air Quality Plan refers to the Scottish Government’s plan to create a Low Emission Zone in Scotland by 2018 with a first proposal by the end of this month. 

In their letter, ClientEarth have welcomed the LEZ plan and increasing development of Scotland’s National Low Emission Zone framework. However, they have questioned the Scottish Government’s plan to only initially create a LEZ in one Scottish city and want to know how they will be addressing pollution levels throughout the country.

ClientEarth also raise the issue that Edinburgh and Aberdeen are currently not expected to meet legal pollution limits until 2020, and Glasgow not until 2024. The letter reads: “I would be grateful if you could provide further information on how limit values will be met in the shortest time possible in all parts of Scotland.”  

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said in response to ClientEarth’s letter: "ClientEarth are absolutely right to ask the Scottish Government why they are proposing only one Low Emission Zone, when illegal and dangerous levels of pollution continue to plague many towns and cities in Scotland.

"The Scottish Government needs to finalise the details of its first Low Emission Zone straight away, and needs to commit to introducing Low Emission Zones in all Scottish cities with illegal air pollution.”

She also added: "As well as Low Emission Zones we urge the Scottish Government to invest more in walking and cycling, to phase out fossil fuelled vehicles and to re-regulate the buses so that Councils have more say over local bus routes and fares.”

ClientEarth have challenged the UK Government on their failure to fully address national levels of air pollution multiple times before.

In May this year they took the Government to court, claiming that draft proposals to deal with this environmental crisis were unlawful as they were too weak to make any real change. In 2015 and 2016 the NGO managed to defeat the Government on the same issue, with the high court ruling that the Government's plans weren’t doing enough to tackle illegal levels of air pollution and should be reconsidered.

This letter goes to show that ClientEarth is determined to keep pressing both the Scottish and the UK Government at every stage to ensure that the UK’s rising air pollution crisis is addressed as a matter of urgency.