Supreme Court refers air pollution case to the EU Court


NO2_PicR (ClientEarth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food &  Rural Affairs  [2013] UKSC 25, Supreme Court, 1 May 2013 – read judgment

on appeal against Court of Appeal 30 May 2012 read CA judgment

The Supreme Court has taken the UK’s lack of compliance  with EU legislation, Directive 2008/50 (limiting the amount of nitrogen dioxide in air)  much more seriously than the courts below.  It has made a declaration that the UK is in breach and has referred questions of interpretation concerning the Directive and remedies to the CJEU.

The UK has been in breach of Article 13 the Directive since 1 January 2010, because at that date 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 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.

This seemed to me like a cop-out – it is for the Commission and the courts to enforce directives, as I suggested in my previous posts (e.g. here) on this case.

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The polluted air that we breathe: Supreme Court to hear case


NO2_PicR (Clientearth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food &  Rural Affairs, forthcoming Supreme Court appeal against Court of Appeal 30 May 2012 read CA judgment Updated

Back in the late spring, it seemed as if ClientEarth’s claim against Defra in respect of air pollution had run into the buffers. It had been refused by the Court of Appeal, in reasons given extempore: see my earlier post before Bailii received the judgment. Not many such refused cases make it to the Supreme Court, but this one has.

The Supreme Court lets appeals within its doors or denies them in an inscrutable way – it says yea, or, more commonly, nay, with no reasons. But the Justices thought that there was more to this case than had met the eye of the Court of Appeal. Anyway, hearing on March 7 2013, as the excellent Supreme Court website tells us. I am also told that the Court granted ClientEarth a Protective Costs Order.

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A tinge of green in our Bill of Rights?

Amidst the root and branch opposition to socio-economic rights from some quarters, the idea that the Bill of Rights might contain an environmental right seems to have got lost in the smoke of this rather unedifying battle. The July 2012 Consultation on a Bill of Rights summarises the rival contentions well – see below.

I am ducking well away from the underlying question – should there be a Bill of Rights at all? – but support the proposition that, if there is to be such a Bill, it should contain some provision about the environment. Answers on a postcard to the Commission by 30 September, please, whether you agree or disagree with me, but in the interim, here is my penn’orth.

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The air that we breathe: NGO’s appeal dismissed

R (CLIENTEARTH) v SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT FOOD &  RURAL AFFAIRS, Court of Appeal 30 May 2012, on appeal from Mitting J, 13 December 2011, 

A newsflash, really, confirming that ClientEarth’s claim for a declaration and mandatory order against Defra in respect of air pollution was refused by the Court of Appeal, in line with the judgment below. And the lack of a link to the CA’s judgment because it is not available, I imagine, because the judgment was extempore, and it is being transcribed at the moment. Sadly, that does not necessarily mean it gets onto  the public access site, Bailli, in due course: the first instance decision still languishes on subscription-only sites. So all I know is that ClientEarth’s appeal did not find favour with Laws and Pitchford LJJ, sitting with Sir John Chadwick, but this, as ClientEarth explains, may not be the end of the line.

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