Legal history made in ClientEarth case as judge makes ‘exceptional’ ruling

| 21st February 2018
London behind the smog

London air pollution: view from Hackney on 10 April 2015 

Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/16909776110
Mr Justice Garnham today ruled in the High Court that judges will in future effectively oversee the government's air pollution strategy to ensure it complies with the law. This is the third victory for environmental lawyers at ClientEarth in ensuring clean air for the UK. JON BENNETT, from ClientEarth, provides the story

The history of this litigation shows that good faith, hard work and sincere promises are not enough... and it seems court must keep the pressure on to ensure compliance is actually achieved.

ClientEarth made legal history today after a High Court judge ruled that the court should have effective oversight of the UK government’s next air pollution plans.

The ruling came at the end of a judgment which saw the government defeated for the third time by ClientEarth over air pollution.

It means, for the first time ever, that ClientEarth can immediately bring the government back to court if it prepares a plan which is unlawful.

Government’s actions

This move, which means the environmental lawyers will not need to apply for permission to bring judicial review, was described by the judge as “wholly exceptional”.

Anna Heslop, a lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “The Judge has effectively allowed us to bring this matter straight back to court without delay if the government continues to fall short of its duties.

"We are extremely grateful for this because it means we will be able to monitor the government’s actions even more effectively and hold them to account.”

Valuable monitor

Handing down judgment, Mr Justice Garnham said: "The history of this litigation shows that good faith, hard work and sincere promises are not enough... and it seems court must keep the pressure on to ensure compliance is actually achieved."

He added that this is the third unsuccessful attempt by the government to produce a plan to bring down air pollution to legal levels as quickly as possible and all the while people in towns and cities are at “real risk” from air pollution.

Mr Justice Garnham praised ClientEarth as a “valuable monitor of the government’s efforts”.

Immediately after the judgment the Prime Minister and Defra wrongly claimed  the judge had “dismissed two of the three complaints” brought by ClientEarth. In fact, the judge ruled in ClientEarth’s favour on two of the three grounds.

This Author

Jon Bennett is communications manager for ClientEarth.

Help us keep The Ecologist working for the planet

The Ecologist website is a free service, published by The Resurgence Trust, a UK-based educational charity. We work hard - with a small budget and tiny editorial team - to bring you the wide-ranging, independent journalism we know you value and enjoy, but we need your help. Please make a donation to support The Ecologist platform. Thank you!

Donate to us here