Holding Back the Tide: the Courts and Climate Change

London: Last week a London coroner’s court made history, finding that air pollution was a direct cause in the death of a nine-year-old girl, Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. Rather than treating it as an unfortunate addendum, as deaths brought about by pollution have previously been, it was listed as a factor in Ella’s death as crucial as her acute respiratory failure and severe asthma. This decision emphasises how the climate change debate has moved on, with the harm done to us and the planet by toxic emissions now indisputable. The evidence points one way alone. But decisions like this, welcome though they are, are not enough- they must be a precursor to more dramatic action from governments and international bodies.
Ella grew up in Lewisham, a London suburb, with her family’s house bordering on the South Circular Road, a major thoroughfare across south London. It was their proximity to this road that caused Ella’s death in 2013, with the air pollution constantly exceeding legal limits between 2006 and 2010, exacerbating her asthma and forcing her to hospital almost 30 times in the three years before she died. No one, especially those living in advanced nations with stringent regulatory standards, should be forced to hospital because of the environment they live in, yet this is what Ella faced, and what others continue to face. Elsewhere in London, Oxford Street continues to surge past its annual nitrogen dioxide limits in the first few months of each year, and in France, the EU is taking France to court once more for the dismal state of Paris’ air.
Read more: Nicholas Reed Langen, Justice Gap,

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