Air pollution ruling: Just how bad is air pollution in Britain?

A pall of pollution over the City of London Credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville

The government was today ordered to take urgent action on air pollution in Britain by the Supreme Court.

Britain must now fulfill its obligations under EU law and produce detailed new air quality plans for submission to the European Commission by 31 December 2015.

This landmark decision is the culmination of five years of legal battles between the government and environmental campaigners ClientEarth.

Some shocking facts emerged over the past fortnight, including the fact that areas like London, Birmingham and Leeds would not meet agreed-upon pollution limits until 2030 - 20 years after the original deadline.

ClientEarth also said that air pollution kills more people prematurely than obesity and alcohol combined - an estimated 29,000 every year.

And in March, figures were released showing that every single one of the 50 worst-polluted streets in Britain were in the capital.

ClientEarth said in a statement: "The ruling will save thousands of lives a year by forcing the Government to urgently clean up pollution from diesel vehicles, the main source of the illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide found in many of the UK's towns and cities."

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "The Supreme Court's decision today is encouraging, and affirms the importance of tackling the UK's dangerous levels of air pollution head-on."