Molly Scott Cato has slammed the ‘shocking disregard’ for the UK’s air quality crisis as the Government seeks to delay action on tackling air pollution. The government claim 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. 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. 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.
Molly, together with her Green MEP colleagues, Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, have written to the secretary of state for Defra, Andrea Leadsom, demanding to know why the Government has failed to fulfil its legal and moral duty. They have also written to Environment Commissioner (PDF), Karmenu Vella, calling for the EU to take tough action against the Conservative Governmen.
Molly, who is supporting the ‘Let Bristol Breathe‘ campaign to tackle dangerous levels of air pollution in the city, said:
“It’s a scandal that Tory Minsters show such shocking disregard for 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 (PDF) every year.
“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 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. But the Prime Minister’s plans for an extreme Brexit puts those vital EU safeguards at risk.