Supreme Court sends air pollution case to the CJEU

01 May 2013

The Supreme Court today gave judgment in an appeal brought by ClientEarth against Defra concerning the breach of air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide in Greater London and other zones in the UK. ClientEarth appealed against the Court of Appeal’s decision in May last year to refuse 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. Defra had previously been successful in arguing that it is not required to produce such plans under the terms of the Directive where compliance with the EU levels could not be achieved by 2015. The Supreme Court held that case raised “difficult issues of European law”, particularly on the interpretation of the Government’s  obligations under the Air Quality Directive, and that it was therefore required to make a reference to the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”). The parties have been given 14 days to make submissions on the precise terms of the questions to be referred.

Kassie Smith QC acted for Defra in the Supreme Court.

To read the Supreme Court judgment, please click here.