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Case update 08 January 2021

Court refuses permission in the Clean Air Case – but there’s a silver lining

We have previously written about our challenge to force Government to review its Clean Air Strategy – and that we failed to get permission to bring that challenge.

The challenge was a vehicle to establish in the law of England and Wales a ‘precautionary principle’. The principle says that when scientific evidence about an environmental or human health hazard is uncertain but the stakes are high, precautionary steps must be taken.

Following an extended hearing, the High Court disagreed with us on whether or not our grounds were ‘arguable’ (which is the legal threshold used to determine whether a case should be granted permission). However, on the key issue of whether the precautionary principle was a free-standing principle in domestic law, Mr Justice Garnham kept the door open by saying that while there were other reasons why permission should not be granted, there:

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might have been arguments of substance as to whether the precautionary principle is a freestanding principle of English law” and that he “may well have granted permission on that issue.

Faced with an existential risk to humanity we believe that the precautionary principle is a critical tool by which judges can constrain political short-termism. We intend to re-litigate the point in a different setting. We are pleased that the judge’s comments have given us the opportunity to do so.

In line with our transparency principles, a copy of the judgment can be found here

We instructed Hausfeld LLP to act as our solicitors on a pro bono basis, along with our barrister team consisting of James Maurici QC and Yaaser Vanderman from Landmark Chambers both of whom acted at below-market rates. We are very grateful for their assistance.

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