Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tories should be sued over dangerous levels of NO2 (?)

Yes. This time it is NO2, not CO2.  Gaseous oxides seem to get a bad rap.  Whether British government policy can be mandated by the courts is an interesting issue.  In the absence of a written constitution, it could be possible.  But I doubt that there are binding precedents for it.  In Britain, the Queen in parliament has always been held to be supreme.  The various EU treaties could come into play, however.

And here's an interesting comment from an academic journal article on the subject:

"Studies have not demonstrated a clear dose-dependent health risk response to increasing amounts of these pollutants except at high concentrations. In addition, a number of studies examining the effects of ambient level exposure to NO2, SO2, and CO have failed to find associations with adverse health outcomes".

So the levels of SO2 in British cities may be no problem at all -- or at least a very minor problem based on weak statistical associations.  It wouldn't be the first time that Greenies have "cried wolf"  -- like the "acid rain" scare, for instance

The barrister wife of former Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday said the Government must be sued for continuing to allow dangerous pollution levels in the UK.

Justine Thornton, who will be made a Queen's Counsel next month, said the estimated 23,500 annual deaths from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in the UK were `a national scandal'.

She said judges must take the government to task to take immediate action to cut pollution.

Critics, however, are likely to point out that it was the previous Labour government - in which her husband served as energy secretary - that offered tax breaks to encourage British motorists to switch to diesel engines.

Labour encouraged us to drive diesel cars because they produce less carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas which causes global warming.

Around 10million British motorists now drive diesels, but the consequences have been a rise in NO2, which damages the lungs and blood vessels and worsens asthma.

Labour's shadow environment minister Barry Gardiner has previously accepted that his party's decision was `wrong' and a `massive problem for public health.'

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled last April that the Government should `be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue'.

In order to tackle NO2 pollution, Ministers issued plans in mid-December to introduce clean air zones by 2020.

These schemes will see diesel vehicles charged to enter parts of Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton.

London will also introduce a low emission zone, charging for diesel vehicles, but under the plans it will only reach legally acceptable pollution levels by 2025.

Environmental group Clientearth, which brought the original court case against the Government, has warned it will bring a further legal challenge to Ministers within weeks for failing to do enough to tackle pollution.

The actions get the full support of Miss Thornton, who is a specialist in environmental law.

Writing in the Guardian, she said the Government has `soft-pedalled' on pollution by private motorists and `appears intent on watering down European legal limits for vehicle emissions'.

Miss Thornton added: `The stage is set for a fascinating tussle between law and politics. The UK court will have to roll up its sleeves and decide whether this Government is doing what it can to make our air as safe as possible.'

She went on: `Ten more years of dangerous air pollution in London puts a whole generation of children at risk. The quality of the air that our children breathe is too important to be decided behind closed doors by government and vehicle manufacturers.'

Alan Andrews, a lawyer for ClientEarth said he would apply for a case against the Government to be fast-tracked because people's lives were at risk.

He said: `This is such an urgent issue. The Supreme Court ordered Government to take immediate action. These plans are an outrageous statement... that the government doesn't intend to comply as soon as possible. It is an arrogant response that is simply not good enough


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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