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Britain faces new legal challenge over air quality improvement plan

LONDON (Reuters) – New legal proceedings have been launched against the British government by environmental law firm ClientEarth over what it says is a failure to tackle air pollution, the firm said on Tuesday.

ClientEarth has taken action against the government twice before, in 2015 and 2016. The Supreme Court ordered the government to produce a new air quality plan in 2015.

In 2016 the High Court ordered a new plan which came out earlier this year.

However, ClientEarth says that the plan stills fall short of what is needed to bring pollution within legal limits as soon as possible and is therefore seeking a judicial review.

“We need clarity from the government and for that we’ve been forced to go back to court,” James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, said in a statement.

No one at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was immediately available for comment.

The firm said the reasons for the judicial review are that the latest government plan backtracks on previous commitments to make five cities in Britain introduce clean air zones by 2020.

The plan also does not require any action from 45 local authorities in England, despite them having illegal levels of air pollution and it does not require any action from Wales.

Under the EU’s Air Quality Directive, member states were supposed to comply with nitrogen dioxide emission limits in 2010 – or by 2015 if they delivered plans to deal with high levels of the gas, which is produced mainly by diesel engines.

Nitrogen oxide emissions reduce air quality and are associated with respiratory and other illnesses.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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