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Environment lawyers urge Gove to tackle air pollution crisis

Former justice secretary faces ‘career defining opportunity’, says ClientEarth

12 June 2017

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The new environment secretary, Michael Gove, faces ‘a career defining opportunity’ to clean up the UK’s illegal air pollution levels, according to environmental lawyers group ClientEarth.

The former Lord Chancellor and justice secretary was a surprise reappointment to Theresa May’s cabinet last weekend. The Brexiteer spent a year out in the political wilderness after his failed attempt to become leader of the Conservative party and prime minister following David Cameron’s resignation.

One of Gove’s first actions in his new brief will be to defend the government’s draft clean air plan ahead of a High Court hearing initiated by ClientEarth. ‘Michael Gove has a career defining opportunity here to be remembered as the minister who finally cleaned up our country’s illegally bad air pollution,’ said the group’s CEO James Thornton.

‘The government has twice been ordered to produce plans to bring down air pollution as soon as possible. We hope that the new secretary of state is able to get a grip of this problem. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air.’

The government’s plans to clean up air pollution across the country were released on 5 May, despite a last-minute bid to delay them until after the general election on 8 June.

ClientEarth is now taking the government back to court because it believes the draft plan published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did not include measures which the government’s own technical data shows are the best way to reduce air pollution in the shortest time possible.

The group claims the evidence provided by the government to accompany the plans shows that a network of clean air zones which stop the dirtiest diesel vehicles entering the most polluted areas of UK towns and cities would be the most effective solution. However, the plan itself does not propose this.

ClientEarth believes such a network ought to be accompanied by policies which help people to move away from diesel vehicles to cleaner forms of transport.

The High Court is expected to hear the case be before mid-July although no firm date has been set.

Matthew Rogers is a reporter at Solicitors Journal

matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @lex_progress

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