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Climate change and air pollution

Start a climate change claim and help us fight air pollution in the UK today

We are at the forefront of the fight against climate change in the courts, pushing the Government to take into account the more ambitious CO2 reduction targets under the Paris Agreement and as advised by the IPCC, as well as applying pressure on local authorities to have regard to the climate change impact of the decisions they make about everyday services.

In doing so, we tailor our litigation approach to the wider campaigning priorities of our clients to use litigation as a stimulus for faster adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change. For example, we are involved in legal challenges opposing the Heathrow airport expansion and the Government’s national planning policy framework in respect of the carbon impact of fracking.

As the scale of the public health danger presented by air pollution continues to grow, we are seeking to persuade the Courts that the Government can go further in using its powers to properly tackle air pollution, both at a local and national level. This has involved detailed knowledge of the EU’s Air Quality Directive and UK environmental protection laws.

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What is climate change law?

Climate change law consists of policies and legislation that are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels. A reduction in these figures can fight climate change and reduce our negative impact on the environment.

Businesses, government projects and local operations must therefore comply with climate change law. In instances where it is not followed, individuals and NGOs can use it to bring legal challenges.

The Climate Change Act was introduced in the UK in 2008, implementing legally binding carbon emissions targets. Crucially, it introduces a legal binding target on the Government to achieve Net Zero by 2050. As part of that, there is a duty to set interim carbon budgets every 5 years and prepare policies on a continuing basis to enable those budgets to be met. It also sets a framework for climate change action across the country, including a carbon emissions trading scheme.

Focus areas of climate change in environmental law

We can help you to litigate in key areas of climate change such as:

How Leigh Day can support using climate change law

Our team has built up a wealth of knowledge surrounding climate change policies and the Government’s framework, through advice given by the Climate Change Committee and research undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We utilise this knowledge to tailor our litigation approach to the wider campaigning priorities of our clients, and to use climate change law to help tackle the urgent climate crisis facing the planet.

Most notably, we have led legal challenges opposing the Heathrow airport expansion, the Government’s Net Zero Strategy and HS2, placing us as leaders in major infrastructure projects litigation. We are teaming up with environmental campaigners to oppose greater fossil fuel extraction (both onshore and offshore) and to dissuade public bodies from funding such projects.

We also act for campaigners challenging the UK’s emissions trading scheme for excluding municipal waste incineration. Additionally, we have responded to Government policies that restrict renewable energy and promote shale gas as a positive contribution to a low-carbon economy.

Air pollution law

Air pollution in the UK is costing the economy over £20 billion a year by causing poor health and early deaths. Existing air pollution law is in place to reduce this negative impact, including: the 2021 Environment Act, which sets targets for air quality; the 2010 Air Quality Standard Regulations, which imposes a duty to ensure the levels of toxic pollutants do not exceed limit values and, where they do, to bring those levels into compliance within the shortest possible time; and the 1995 Environment Act, which requires local authorities to review air quality in their area and prepare plans to reduce pollution where improvements are necessary.

As air pollution continues to pose an increased danger to public health, we aim to persuade the Courts that the Government can go further in tackling air pollution at both a local and national level. Leigh Day has been, and is currently, instructed on several challenges to planning developments and policy on air quality grounds.

How Leigh Day can help with environmental degradation and air pollution

Leigh Day specialise in representing individuals and communities who have suffered ill-health and damage to their local environment because of pollution and environmental degradation.

Our cases often achieve compensation for the individual and demonstrable improvements to the wider systems governing resource extraction, benefitting the local environment and our planet in the long-term.

What the directories say

They are the best of the best, which is illustrated by their meticulous attention to detail and their complete dedication and professionalism.

Chambers and partners 2021

Meet our climate change and air pollution team

Jamie BeagentPartner and head of human rights
Jamie is a partner and head of the human rights department. He specialises in judicial review and public law. Jamie works for a range of clients including individuals, groups, NGOs and charities.

Tessa Gregory – Partner
Tessa is an experienced litigator who specialises in international and domestic human rights law cases. Tessa joined Leigh Day in April 2014 and has led ground-breaking public law litigation in some of the most challenging and high-profile human rights cases of the day. These include refugee law and wildlife and environment cases.

Carol Day – Consultant solicitor
Carol Day has worked in the environmental sector for over 25 years. She trained as a solicitor at Leigh Day and re-joined the firm to run the Environmental Litigation Service in 2013.

After completing an MSc in Nature Conservation (UCL), Carol started her career in the voluntary sector as a campaigner working on environmental policy.

Tom Short – Associate
Tom specialises in cases relating to environmental damage and human rights abuses involving UK-based multinational corporations. He trained at Allen & Overy LLP and qualified into the firm’s Environmental & Regulatory Law group.

Rowan Smith – Associate
Rowan Smith is a public lawyer, specialising in judicial review and planning law. He currently acts in a range of challenges (with a particular interest in climate change, air pollution and fossil fuels) against local and national public bodies.

Ricardo Gama - Associate
Ricardo Gama is an associate solicitor, specialising in environmental claims. He has extensive knowledge of environmental planning law. He was worked on cases including the quashing of development consent for a road scheme in Derby on climate grounds.

Richard Meeran – Partner and head of international
Richard Meeran joined Leigh Day in 1990 to work on the team’s case against Sellafield nuclear power plant. He’s now the head of the firm’s international department and has pioneered claims against UK-based internationals including Cape PLC.

Martyn Day – Senior partner
Martyn Day is the joint founder of Leigh Day. Among his specialisms are environmental claims and he regularly addresses seminars, lectures and the media on environmental issues.

Why choose Leigh Day?

The Leigh Day environmental law team remains at the forefront of climate change litigation in the UK, holding the Government to account for its legal responsibilities under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Paris Agreement.

Our lawyers have been instrumental in several of the most high-profile climate change cases over the last few years, testing the legal boundaries for meeting net zero and carbon budgets.

Contact us to start your claim.

News and blogs

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Net Zero Strategy Climate change

High Court rules government’s Net Zero Strategy unlawful

The High Court has ruled that the government’s Net Zero Strategy is unlawful because the minister delegated to approve it by the Secretary of State did so without all the necessary information to legally make that decision.

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Friends of the Earth will appeal as judges divided over lawfulness of UK Government investment in Mozambique gas project

Two judges opened the way to an appeal when they were unable to agree on whether the UK Government’s decision to invest $1.15bn in a gas project in Northern Mozambique is unlawful.

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An update on climate change litigation – no signs of cooling

Katharina Theil considers progress on legal moves around the world to bring companies to account for their contribution to climate change.

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Campaigner will take government to court over ‘failed’ Jet Zero strategy

A campaigner is set to take the government to court to challenge what he describes as its ‘failed’ strategy to make flying in the UK net zero by 2050.