UK on track to miss 2020 and 2030 legal targets for toxic pollution


The UK Government is set to miss the legal targets for four out of the five pollutants covered by a crucial piece of clean air law, according to new government data.

The National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2018 set binding emission reduction targets for a number of harmful air pollutants, for both 2020 and 2030. These pollutants significantly harm human health and the environment.

The new data show that the UK is set to miss its 2030 emissions reduction targets by 57% for sulphur dioxide (SO2), by 45% for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), by 20% for ammonia and by 20% for nitrogen oxides.

The figures also suggest that the UK has missed its 2020 emissions reduction targets by 12% for PM2.5 and 7% for ammonia, although final emissions data for 2020 will be released in 2022.

Based on this discovery, the law now requires that the government review its strategy for tackling these pollutants – currently set out in the UK’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy – within 18 months.

Environmental lawyers say that if it fails to review the strategy, the government could face legal challenge.

Katie Nield, lawyer at environmental law charity ClientEarth, said, “Once again, the government is falling short of its legal obligations to reduce pollution. Ministers have been lauding the UK’s Clean Air Strategy as ‘world-leading’ but they are not living up to it.

“Now the government is under a legal obligation to revamp its strategy to tackle major emissions sources like road transport but also agriculture and domestic heating – people’s health is on the line.

“They are so far off track that a serious rethink is needed. The government should not have to be dragged to the courts yet again to force it to live up to legal commitments to clean up the air.”

ClientEarth has already taken Germany to court for failing to reduce these pollutants.


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