Thursday, March 17, 2016


Environmental law firm ClientEarth was named “winner of winners” in the prestigious National Sustainable City Awards backed by the City of London.

The firm – which has just issued a “final legal warning” to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) over its strategy for tackling air pollution – won the Air Quality category sponsored by the Building Engineering Services Association (the BESA) as well as receiving the overall accolade.

The awards were launched in 2001 and attract over 250 entries a year from small firms, charities, large financial institutions and technology providers. This year’s ceremony was held at The Mansion House in the City of London and was organised by the London Sustainability Exchange.

Event host Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf said the awards recognised those who were “leading by example” through their commitment to sustainable development in an urban setting.

“We are honoured to win these awards,” said ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton.

“At its heart, all of our work is designed to create more sustainable societies. We’re setting global precedents on air quality issues and questions of sustainable investment, and are delighted at this recognition of our efforts and achievements.”

ClientEarth aims to protect the environment through advocacy, litigation and research.

“Our legal action, whether in advocacy or in cases before courts and administrative bodies, is built on solid law and science,” Mr Thornton added.

“We believe that the law can be a powerful driver of positive social change, and that public interest law has been an underused tool in the European environmental movement.”

The BESA has established a pan-industry Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) initiative to highlight best practice and provide guidance that will turn buildings into “safe havens” that protect the health and well-being of occupants in the face of rising urban air pollution.

“ClientEarth was a very fitting winner of the air quality category,” said the BESA’s head of sustainability David Frise, who was a member of the judging panel. “And the fact that they went on to win the overall award is a signal of just how important this issue is becoming.

“Many UK cities are in clear breach of EU air quality standards – and have been so for several years. Our task, as building engineering professionals, is to provide technical IAQ solutions to back up the campaigning work of proactive firms like ClientEarth.”

The legal firm has challenged DEFRA over the air quality strategy it was instructed to produce by the Supreme Court, detailing how the Government would bring pollution levels down by 2025 – and warning that current plans are “defective” and fail to take into account all the measures available for tackling pollution.

“Despite an order from the UK’s highest court, despite tens of thousands of premature deaths in this country every year and despite clear evidence to show that air pollution has a terrible effect on the health of vulnerable groups like children, the government has consistently ducked its responsibility to ensure our right to clean air,” Mr Thornton explained.



Picture Caption:

The ClientEarth team (left to right: Ellen Baker, Andrea Lee, Alan Andrews, Alice Garton and Natalie Smith) with their air quality and “winner of winners” awards.


Note to Editors:

Further information from Ewen Rose on 07931 519044 (

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