Over ten years after legal limits to fight toxic air should have been met, air pollution remains at illegal levels across the UK. 3 in every 4 reporting zones in the UK are still charting air pollution that is above legal limits – and people are suffering as a result. Air pollution has been associated with a huge range of health issues including asthma, cancers, low infant birth weight, heart failures and strokes. These issues can cause serious damage to people’s quality of life and even premature death. In fact, 40,000 early deaths a year are linked to air pollution in the UK.
The potential case would focus on breaches of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). As a result of ClientEarth’s previous legal action, the courts have already found the UK Government to be breaching its legal duties to reduce this harmful pollutant in areas across the country.
This new case would be seeking redress for people who have been suffering the real life impacts of toxic air – demanding that they be compensated for the cost that the UK Government’s failings have had on their health.
Given that the potential case will be built on these breaches, people living, studying or working in areas affected by illegal pollution levels are likely to have the strongest claims. To find out whether you might have been affected by illegal pollution, please consult the list of the 86 local authorities that have reported illegal areas of NO2 pollution.
With this action we are focusing on the UK Government because it has persistently breached its legal obligations on air quality under the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive. Since 2015, ClientEarth has won three legal challenges which confirmed that the UK Government has been flouting legal limits for harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution and has failed to comply with its duties to put adequate air quality plans in place to tackle the problem. In March 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union also found that the UK had “systematically and persistently” breached these same legal obligations.
It is the UK Government’s responsibility to properly regulate harmful emissions sources, such as the vehicles on our roads, in order to protect people. They have failed to do this.
For the case to be successful, the court would need to recognise the link between air pollution and an individual’s health issues. The recent inquest into the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has highlighted that the evidence can be strong enough to make that link. Of course, each case is different and whether this will be possible will depend on the detail of every individual’s circumstances. We will be working with leading medical and scientific experts to build a strong case.
As a first step, we would like to hear from people who think their health may have been adversely impacted by air pollution. We are therefore asking people to come forward and share some information about the area they live in and the health conditions they experience.
Not yet. At this stage, ClientEarth and Hausfeld are exploring a potential case, following the process we explained in the previous question.
Environmental law charity ClientEarth and law firm Hausfeld are investigating the possibility of a legal action against the Government on behalf of people whose health has been adversely impacted by air pollution, seeking compensation for the harm suffered.
But for that to happen, we need people like you to come forward and share some information about the area they live in and the health conditions they experience.
People who have suffered from the real-life impacts of air pollution will be front and centre of this potential case. With people’s permission, information from the online form will be shared with medical experts to help determine whether their health problems could be linked to air pollution.
Further down the line, building a successful claim will require claimants to work with the Hausfeld team to provide more details regarding their health conditions and their lifestyle. But at this stage we are simply looking at who might be eligible.
After you fill out the questionnaire on the previous page, Hausfeld will go through the answers and may contact you to discuss your options in more detail. If you have any questions about the form, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be working with leading medical and scientific experts to build a strong case.
These experts have advised that the following health issues have the largest weight of evidence linking them to dirty air:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Cancers, in particular lung and bladder cancers
Low infant birth-weight
Acute lower respiratory infections in children (bronchiolitis, bronchitis, pneumonia)
Heart attacks and heart failures
Claimants with these conditions are likely to be in the strongest position to put forward a case. Of course, each case is different and whether this will be possible will depend on the detail of every individual’s circumstances.
No, you will not need to pay anything upfront. Hausfeld will act on a “no win, no fee” basis. This means that if the claim does not proceed, Hausfeld will not be paid. Likewise, if the claim does proceed but is lost, Hausfeld will not be paid for the lawyers’ hours invested in investigating and bringing the case. However, if the case is won, then it is possible that a small part of the damages payable to the claimants may go towards the lawyers’ and experts’ fees.
The UK Government has breached its legal obligations under the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive, which has been adopted into UK law in the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010.
Courts in the UK and the EU have both confirmed the Government has breached the law, including in three court cases brought – and won – by ClientEarth.
This new case would be looking to translate those legal wins into justice for people who have been suffering the real life impacts of toxic air – demanding that they be compensated for the impact that the UK Government’s failings have had on their health.
Yes. This claim would be applying a principle of EU law that provides people with the right to seek compensation in certain instances where governments have failed to comply with legal obligations that stem from EU law. While the UK has left the EU, people are still able to bring cases relying on that principle until the end of 2022. Additionally, the legal pollution limits and protections that came from the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive remain part of our domestic legislation in the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 and continue to bind the UK Government even after Brexit.
Client Earth’s previous court cases against the UK government did not involve individual claimants. They were public law judicial review cases that sought court orders requiring the UK Government to comply with its legal duties to clean up the air.
The cases were critical to drive action to protect people going forward, but it was not possible to use that kind of case to get justice for those who have already suffered. This new case would be a private law claim and would give people the chance to seek compensation for the personal health impacts of the Government’s past and ongoing failures.
This will have the added benefit of putting critical pressure on the UK Government to better protect people from the impacts of pollution going forward, to avoid more of these kind of claims in the future.
CLIENTEARTH AND HAUSFELD
The Hausfeld team in London are specialists in leading and managing group and collective claims, and ClientEarth has a proven track record of pursuing successful litigation against the UK Government on air pollution. We will be working with a specialist team of barristers and leading medical and scientific experts.
ClientEarth is a charity, not a law firm. As such, ClientEarth lawyers will not be acting solicitors on this case and will not be representing any of the claimants in this case - that will be the role of the Hausfeld team. ClientEarth will provide technical expertise and assistance to Hausfeld to support the claim.