Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC has been instructed to lead the Supreme Court appeal today (7 March) brought by environmental law organisation Client Earth against the Government over air pollution.
Rose is leading Blackstone’s Ben Jaffey, who led Client Earth’s case at the Court of Appeal and was also involved at first instance, alongside fellow Blackstone tenant Emma Dixon.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has retained Monckton Chambers’ Kassie Smith, who is one of this year’s class of new silks, to argue its response to the appeal.
ClientEarth is appealing against the Court of Appeal’s decision in May last year to decline judicial review of the Government’s plans to improve air quality. The lobbying organisation says that under the EU’s Air Quality Directive, the Government should be forced to provide the European Commission with plans for reducing nitrogen dioxide levels by 1 January 2015 in 17 regions of the UK.
Draft air quality plans submitted to the commission by the Government in September 2011 indicate that compliance with the directive will only be achieved between 2015 and 2020 in 16 of 40 zones which currently exceed nitrogen dioxide limits, including Birmingham and Manchester, and before 2025 in London.
In today’s Supreme Court hearing before Lords Hope, Mance,Clarke, Sumption and Carnwath, ClientEarth will argue that the Government is obliged to put in place plans to reduce air pollution by 2015. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is contending it is under no such obligation.
ClientEarth’s case is supported by a letter from the European Commission supporting its interpretation of the air quality directive, and at first instance the Government conceded it was in breach of the directive. However Mr Justice Mitting, supported by the Court of Appeal, said that there were appropriate remedies at European level for the commission and a judicial review forcing the Government to submit new air quality plans was not required.
ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “Air pollution is an invisible killer that causes heart attacks and strokes, stops children’s lungs from growing properly and is linked to low birth weight in newborns. For too long, the Government has got away with failing to protect the public’s health from air pollution, and we have the right to take them to court to demand action. Our Government is lobbying in Brussels to try to weaken current air quality laws instead of coming up with an ambitious new plan to clean up the dirty diesel vehicles which are choking our towns and cities.”
For more on ClientEarth’s work, see our Hot 100 profile of Thornton, including an exclusive video interview.