skip to main content
Archive stamp

Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEPs slam government as it misses two separate air quality deadlines

24th April 2017

Green MEPs have slammed the ‘shocking disregard’ for the UK’s air quality crisis as the Government seeks to delay action on tackling air pollution.  The Government claims that the ‘purdah’ period in the run-up to the general election means they cannot take action until a new government is formed on 9th June.

Environmental lawyers Client Earth won a second High Court challenge against the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom last November over her failure to take measures that would bring the UK into compliance with EU air quality laws [1]. The court set the Minister a deadline of 24 April to produce a new plan. The European Commission also sent a ‘final warning’ to the UK in February over its failure to address repeated breaches of legal air pollution limits in 16 areas including London and the South East [2]. The Government had two months to respond to the warning. The Government has failed to publish either its response to the Commission or its High Court-mandated plan to clean up Britain’s air [3].

Molly Scott Cato, MEP for the South West, Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East, and Jean Lambert, MEP for London, have written to Andrea Leadsom demanding to know why the Government has failed to fulfil its legal and moral duty [4]. The Green Party MEPs have also written to Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella calling for the EU to take tough action against the Conservative Government [5].

Jean Lambert, MEP for London, said:

“The failure highlighted by the Government refusal to meet its legally-binding deadlines is as much moral as it is legal; Ministers continue to display an extremely concerning attitude of indifference towards their duty to safeguard the health of British citizens.”

“Conservatives in the UK clearly have little regard for the deadly air quality crisis while the Tories in the European Parliament consistently try to water down air pollution laws. This latest failure is just another cautionary glimpse of what we might expect from Theresa May’s government free of the auspices of the EU, following an extreme Brexit.”

Molly Scott Cato MEP, who is supporting the ‘Let Bristol Breathe’ campaign to tackle dangerous levels of the city [6], said:

“It’s a scandal that Tory Minsters show such a shocking disregard of the UK’s legal and moral obligation to take action on air pollution. Even more outrageous that they are now seeking to use the general election as an excuse for inaction and to cover up their total failure to protect public health. Our air quality crisis is linked to more than 2,000 needless deaths across the South West and almost 6% of all deaths in Bristol every year [7].

“That it is the European Commission and ClientEarth having to hold Theresa May to account for a public health crisis that costs the British public more than £20bn a year [8] is a shameful indictment of the Conservatives’ irresponsible and deadly apathy. The government readily acknowledges that any positive air quality action it has been forced to take has been driven by EU law [9]. But the Prime Minister’s plans for an extreme Brexit puts those vital EU safeguards at risk.”

Keith Taylor MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health committee, concluded:

“The government has been exposed, yet again, as failing in its duty to take even the most basic action to combat an air pollution crisis that needlessly claims the lives of more than 4,000 people every year in the South East alone [7]. That’s 78 lives cut tragically short every week the Government fails to take action. It’s no surprise that two-thirds of the public want the Prime Minister to do more to combat the toxic air they are forced to breathe [10].”

“Theresa May is failing to do the bare minimum, as required by EU laws the UK helped to set, to improve the quality of the air we all breathe. The bare minimum. Where embraced and enforced, EU air pollution limits are helping to prevent thousands of deaths every year [11] and saving billions of pounds in direct health costs [12].”






[4] Letter to European Commissioner Karmenu Vella available on request.

[5] Letter to Andrea Leadsom available on request.