Campaigners declare ‘big win for climate transparency’ as government’s assessment of climate plan risks published

Environment groups are in court challenging the UK Government's net zero policy

Campaigners have called the publication of the UK government’s assessment of net zero policy risks, after months of pressure, a “big win” for climate transparency.

It comes as the UK Government is facing another legal challenge in the High Court over its net zero plans by environmental campaign groups this week. 

Three organisations ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Good Law Project launched action against the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s (DESNZ) decision to approve the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan last March.

On Tuesday, the previously concealed UK Government assessment with details of its risks to delivering net zero was released, which the climate groups have declared to be a “big win already”.

It comes after months of pressure from the not-for-profit law company Good Law Project to release the risk tables, following which the group said it was “plain to see why ministers have been keeping them under wraps”. 

Initial analysis of the tables by the law group claimed that the ability of the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan to hit legally-binding climate targets ‘is already in jeopardy’ due to delays, over-reliance on unproven technology, insecure funding and a lack of joined-up policy thinking.

While ClientEarth lawyer Angus Eames believed the tables showed: “The Government knew that many of its flagship policies in its net zero strategy were subject to significant risk.”

In 2022 climate groups won a court case which forced the UK Government to rewrite its Net Zero Strategy, the government’s main plan to reduce the UK’s climate emissions which is legally required under the Climate Change Act 2008. 

However, they are taking ministers back to court arguing that the new plan is also in breach of the Climate Change Act, along with the government’s refusal to disclose the risk assessments.   

During proceedings, the High Court was told that the Government was “not even aware” of the risks involved with implementing its strategy to meet the UK’s climate targets. 

David Wolfe KC for environmental campaign group FoE argued that the then-Secretary of State Grant Shapps was “unlawfully not even aware of the delivery risks associated with policies and proposals he relied upon when taking his decision”.

DESNZ representative Jonathan Moffett KC argued Mr Shapps had “sufficient information” about risks of implementing climate policies. He argued any assessment of risk is conducted “in a context in which there is inherent uncertainty arising out of the long timescales involved.”

 The case is set to conclude on Thursday with a judgement anticipated within 2-4 months.

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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