R (ClientEarth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs , CJEU, 19 November 2014 – read C404-13
In May 2013, the UK Supreme Court (here) was sufficiently concerned about the UK’s lack of compliance with EU legislation, Directive 2008/50 (nitrogen dioxide etc in air) to refer various issues to the CJEU in Luxembourg.
The UK has been in breach of Article 13 the Directive since 1 January 2010, because 40 “zones and agglomerations” had nitrogen dioxide at concentrations greater than the limit values set out in the Directive. ClientEarth, an environmental NGO, sought to enforce the Directive in the national courts. Defra admitted breach of Article 13 and, given the admission, the first instance judge and the Court of Appeal said that there was no point in granting any declaratory relief. It was for the EU Commission, if it wished, to take infraction proceedings. And those lower courts disagreed with ClientEarth’s interpretation of the Directive, which, as we shall see, has now for the first time been upheld by the CJEU.
The Supreme Court went rather further; it granted a declaration that the UK was in breach of Article 13, and posed various questions about the meaning of the Directive to the CJEU.