Government ordered to act to reduce air pollution levels

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The Government has been ordered by the UK's highest court to take immediate action to reduce air pollution levels.

Supreme Court justices ruled yesterday that the Government must follow up on its obligations to meet European pollution limits after an environmental campaign group mounted legal action to force politicians to address high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

A panel of five judges, led by Lord Neuberger, unanimously ruled "that the Government must prepare and consult on new air quality plans for submission to the European Commision [...] no later than December 31 2015", reports the Press Association.

This comes after environmental activists ClientEarth urged judges earlier this month to order the Government to devise new plans to reduce high nitrogen dioxide levels, which have been linked to a number of health problems including respiratory and heart issues.

During the case, Ben Jaffey, who represented the activist group against the Environment Secretary, stated that only enforcement by the court would offer "an effective remedy" to the Government's "ongoing breach" of EU pollution laws, writes the Press Association.

"The new government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue," Lord Carnwath said, declaring the court's decision.

This isn't the first time that ClientEarth has won the backing of the Supreme Court against the government on environmental grounds. In 2013 the court confirmed that the UK was breaching Air Quality Directive obligations, with the group pointing out that current plans mean that some major cities, including London and Birmingham, are not likely to meet pollution limits until 2030 – two decades after the original 2010 deadline.