Climate change, pollution and the battle to save wildlife

The CrowdJustice Team

posted on 27 Mar 2024

This month we asked CrowdJustice Backers what issues facing the UK today concerned them the most. Over half of all 2,000 respondents (59%) were concerned about the environment.

When asked what three environmental issues were the most concerning:

  • 73% of respondents were concerned about climate change.

  • 65% of respondents were concerned about water quality, with 55% of respondents concerned about pollution generally.

  • 50% of respondents were concerned about the conservation of wildlife.

Climate change in the courts

The BBC has described the number of legal cases aimed at fighting climate change in the courts as “a tsunami of climate litigation.”

Last year, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University published findings that the “total number of climate change court cases has more than doubled since 2017 and is growing worldwide.” According to the UNEP, their report proves that legal cases are “an integral part of securing climate action and justice.”

Rights Community Action recently won their High Court battle to stop the government from diluting local net zero plans. Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project await judgement on their challenge to the government over its inadequate climate strategy under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Global Legal Action Network also awaits the ruling on their historic case at the European Court of Human Rights. The case against 32 European countries was brought by six Portuguese children and young people arguing that governments are not doing enough to halt climate change.

The problem with pollution

Last week, The Guardian reported that “every new school in England is being built in an area with unsafe levels of air pollution.” The report came after a study, led by Evelina London Children’s Hospital and King’s College London (KCL), “found that almost nine in 10 planned new school sites exceed three World Health Organization (WHO) targets on major air pollutants.”

In 2019, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah raised funds on CrowdJustice for representation at the inquest of her 9-year-old daughter Ella. The landmark case saw the coroner conclude that air pollution "made a material contribution" to Ella's tragic death. This was the first time air pollution was recognised as a factor in someone’s death in the UK. Rosamund continues to fight for clean air for all and was granted a CBE last year for her campaign work.

As well as air pollution, the last year has seen dozens of headlines about the level of pollution across waterways in the UK. The Rivers Trust say that “water quality is under attack from all angles” with “sewage and urban pollution, agricultural pollution, and industrial pollution” all contributing to the problem. Last year, Good Law Project and Wild Fish brought cases on water quality to the UK courts.

The battle to save wildlife

The State of Nature report released in September 2023 includes some stark statistics about biodiversity loss in the UK. The report found that 16% of the plant and animal species surveyed are at risk of extinction. In England, wildlife has decreased in abundance by 32% since 1970. Meanwhile, Scottish seabirds have declined by 49% from 1986-2019.

Environmental charity Greenpeace point out that “loss of biodiversity is of concern because we rely on it for many important things, like clean air, water, food and medicine.”

Over the last five years Wild Justice, founded by Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery, have been using the legal system to get a better deal for UK wildlife—from defending badgers in Northern Ireland to challenging the killing of birds.