Yesterday, environmental lawyers ClientEarth won a third case against the UK government over the country’s illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.
In a ruling handed down at the High Court in London yesterday morning, Judge Mr Justice Garnham declared the government’s failure to require action from 45 local authorities with illegal levels of air pollution in their area unlawful.
The Governments response was to point out that “the judge found that our modelling is compliant and that our approach to areas with major air quality problems is ‘sensible, rational and lawful’. “The court has also asked us to go further in areas with less severe air quality problems”.
And here’s the rub, the present modelling of London’s air pollution is based on data from a small number of air reference stations and these only cover a very small percentage of the areas with high pollution. Data modelling only provides an estimate, a best guess at what air pollution is like locally. Some of the areas believed to have ‘less severe air quality’ may in fact be areas with illegal levels of air pollution.
Monitoring local air quality will identify areas likely to exceed hourly legal limits for toxic pollutants and require action from our government who are continually fighting not to take action.
We should already have a network of thousands of local air monitors measuring and openly sharing accurate data along the most polluted routes that our children take to nurseries and schools but our government believes that modelling is sufficient, so instead we get estimates.
How many court cases will it take before we realise that our government will not effectively monitor local air pollution and act to prevent our children breathing these carcinogenic fumes?
At some point we as parents, as citizens must step in and assist our local authorities by measuring the levels of air pollution in our areas and providing them with the local monitoring data they need to act appropriately to reduce public exposure.
If it personally cost you five pounds to know the quality of air your child breathes every journey they make to nursery or school, would you pay it? Or would you rather rely on the government’s guestimate?