Britain’s highest appeal court, the Supreme Court, has ruled that the UK is in breach of the EU air quality directive. However, before deciding on further action, the Supreme Court referred a number of legal questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, which could take up to 18 months to answer.
The Supreme Court could eventually force the UK government to take certain steps to improve air quality but does not have the power to issue fines, according to Alan Andrews, lawyer at ClientEarth which brought the case against the government in 2011. ClientEarth wanted to force the government to come up with an air quality plan to comply with EU limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations by 2015.
The ECJ will be asked to consider whether applying for a time extension is mandatory. If it is not, it is asked to define “as short as possible” in the context of reaching compliance under article 23 of the directive.
Sources: ENDS Europe Daily, 1 May 2013 and PlanetArk, 2 May 2013.