The government has come under fire from environmentalist and other stakeholders after they failed to release their clean air plan on Monday. They claimed that they could not do so, due to the election purdah.
However, James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth who originally brought the case to the government disputes their claim.
“This is a public health issue and not a political issue. Urgent action is required to protect people’s health from the illegal and poisonous air that we are forced to breathe in the UK. This is a matter for the court to decide once the government has made its arguments because it is the government which has not met, and instead seeks to extend, the court’s deadline for the clean air plan, to clean up our air.”
The high court has now ruled that the government explain their actions. There will be a hearing on Thursday where ministers will have to defend their actions.
The government were under the order of the court to produce the clean air plan by 4 PM Monday. There had been a series of stalls the in the publication which had eventually led to the court order.
Currently, the UK has large areas with illegal levels of pollution – Which includes over 38 million people – over half of the current population.
The research has shown that consistent exposure to high levels of fumes is harmful to adults and children. However, children are much like to face health issues because of their developing lungs.
These health issues include premature death and reduced lung growth.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also weighed in on the issue saying: “It is frankly outrageous that the government thinks it can continue to bury its head in the sand about the serious health impacts of air quality in London and across the country. The prime minister has once again missed this golden opportunity to show real leadership in tackling and improving the air we breathe, which should have been done well before the pre-election period.”
The current environment secretary Andrea Leadsom answered urgent questions and reinstated that she was “personally deeply committed to the importance of ensuring clean air” but could not go ahead with releasing the plan in case of breaching the government’s election purdah rules.
James Thornton will represent ClientEarth along with his lawyers this Thursday in court.