Campaigners launch legal action over government’s ‘unlawful’ climate plans

‘Despite having nine months to come up with a lawful strategy, we believe this revised action plan still falls far short of the government’s legal obligations under the Climate Change Act.’

A placard with text reading "There is no planet B"

In 2022, the Good Law Project teamed up with Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth to launch a legal bid to force the government to rewrite its ‘woefully inadequate’ net zero strategy.

A landmark ruling by the High Court found that the government’s original net zero strategy did not meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act to produce detailed climate policies that show how the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets will be met.

However, the new plan that the government came back with – the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan published in March – still isn’t up to scratch and is unlawful, state the three organisations. As such, they have filed papers at the High Court requesting a judicial review.

Lawyers for Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project say this revised plan breaches the Climate Change Act. They argue that the plan fails to provide real information on the government’s assessment of the risk of the proposals. Additionally, policies are not being delivered and are not meeting legally binding climate targets, the environmentalists warn. On top of this, they say that the information the plan does include confirms that many of the technologies being relied on to deliver substantial emission savings are high risk, raising serious questions about the government’s assumption that they will be delivered ‘in full.’

Friends of the Earth lawyer, Katie de Kauwe, said: “Despite having nine months to come up with a lawful strategy, we believe this revised action plan still falls far short of the government’s legal obligations under the Climate Change Act. We said we’d take the government to court again if we believed that they’d failed to honour their climate commitments – and this is exactly what we are now doing.

De Kauwe continues that the climate crisis is already battering Britain and the world with record heatwaves, droughts and storms, and unless politicians take the action needed to slash emissions these impacts will become more severe and more frequent. “The good news is that building a green economy won’t just slash emissions; it will also create new jobs, boost energy security and help tackle the soaring cost-of-living.”

Good Law Project’s Legal Director, Emma Dearnaley, said it is deeply alarming that the government’s new plan does not properly set out the risks of key policies missing these essential goals.

“What are they trying to hide?

“That is why we are pursuing legal action to demand transparency and help us and others to hold the Government to account on its new climate change strategy,” said Dearnaley.

In pursuit of holding the government to account on its new climate change strategy, the campaigners have launched a crowdfunder, urging people to support the legal action. It has already raised almost £15,000 of its £20,000 target.

It hasn’t been the best of weeks for the government’s climate change commitments. Fury was provoked when it was disclosed by the Guardian that the government is drawing up plans to drop the UK’s flagship £11.6bn climate and nature funding pledge. Rishi Sunak was accused of making false promises and betraying populations most vulnerable to global heating.

The disclosure comes as the UN warned that climate change is ‘out of control,’ following what is believed to have been the world’s hottest seven days in a row.

Referring to the world temperature records broken on Monday and Tuesday, the UN general secretary António Guterres said: “If we persist in delaying key measures that are needed, I think we are moving into a catastrophic situation, as the last two records in temperature demonstrates.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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