Supreme Court tells govt its failing on air quality

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Poor air quality in the UK has led to the Supreme Court ruling last Wednesday that the Government is failing to meet EU air quality targets. This ruling came as no surprise as areas such as Heathrow and Central London suffer from an increase in poor air quality, particularly with Nitrogen Dioxide.

Environmental campaign group, ClientEarth took the Government to court over its failure to comply with EU air pollution limits of Nitrogen Dioxide. Poor air quality in London causes more than 4,000 deaths prematurely every year, that is early deaths. The Supreme Court ruled the Government has breached its EU air pollution limit and that the European Commission should be able to take legal action against the UK.

The decision should be a wakeup call for the government and the Mayor. It is unacceptable that while 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of air pollution, Boris Johnson’s response has been to kick serious action that would tackle the problem down the line for a future Mayor to deal with.

Around Heathrow, the two pollutants that are of particular concern are Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter with a diameter of ten microns or smaller (PM10 and PM2.5). NO2 is one of two main pollutants that make up oxides of nitrogen emissions (NOx) in London. The other is nitric oxide (NO). Of the two, NO2 is of most concern due to its impact on health. NO easily converts to NO2 in the air – so to reduce concentrations of NO2 it is essential to control emissions of NOx.

The latest reports on poor air quality around Heathrow can be seen in the London Heathrow Air Quality Group report and the London Assembly’s Environment Committee report on Heathrow Air & Noise Pollution.

Air pollution is the second biggest public health risk in the capital. That London will not meet legal limits on NO2 pollution until 2025 shows exactly how much of a priority the Mayor gave the issue during his first term.