In 2015 Client Earth took the UK Government to the Supreme Court over its inaction to address air quality

The Government were therefore instructed to develop an air quality plan to achieve reductions of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the shortest possible time, in line with the legislative requirements.

‘Improving Air Quality in the UK’ was issued in December 2015. This identified cities that would exceed air quality limits.

Ministerial Directions were issued from December 2015 and local authorities were required to produce an air quality plan to address their NO2 exceedances

Timetable of Government action

December 2015

Improving Air Quality in the UK’ was published.

First wave authorities: Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby

July 2017

UK Plan for Tackling Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’ was published.

Second wave authorities: An additional 28 local authorities with the worst NO2 problems were directed by Government to produce local air quality plans

October 2018

‘Supplement to the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration’ was published.

Third wave authorities: a further 33 local authorities were directed to produce a local air quality plan, including Liverpool City Council


Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide

The ‘UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations’ published in 2017 by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT) states that local authorities should deliver a scheme or set of schemes that leads to compliance with NO2 concentration limits in the shortest possible time.

It highlights the negative effect that air pollution can have on public health, the natural environment, and the economy, while also highlighting the UK Government’s commitment to building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Clean Air Strategy

  • The UK Government has published a Clean Air Strategy (2019) outlining its plans to tackle air pollution
  • The Government is investing £255 million through the Implementation Fund and £220 million through the Clean Air Fund (CAF) for UK cities to develop local air quality plans with the aim of bringing the UK within legal limits
  • This funding is being allocated to local authorities who have been handed down a Ministerial Direction to address their NO2 exceedances
  • Liverpool is one of the Local Authorities that have been mandated by the Government to address their local NO2 exceedances
  • A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is the UK Government and Client Earth’s baseline strategy

Ministerial Direction

The Clean Air Zone Framework that was first published in 2017 (updated in 2020) by Defra and DfT, sets out the the principles for the operation of Clean Air Zones in England (see right)

As part of current statutory limits, Liverpool City Council need to ensure that air quality values do not exceed:

  • An annual mean NO2 concentration of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3)
  • An hourly mean NO2 concentration of 200 µg/m3, to be exceeded no more than 18 times per year
Princess Park in Liverpool